MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – With September 5 quickly approaching, the Mountaineers are preparing on both sides of the ball for the Georgia Southern Eagles.
West Virginia is working with a slightly revamped set of wide receivers after the departure of Kevin White and Mario Alford. But with that, comes plenty of room for up-and-coming wide outs to shine.
This year, the WR column on the Mountaineers roster is stacked full of talent, both veteran (with names like Jordan Thompson, Daikiel Shorts, Shelton Gibson, KJ Myers) and contemporary (Ka’Raun White, Jovon Durante, Gary Jennings).
According to Georgia Southern defensive coordinator Jack Curtis, the Eagles’ depth in the secondary could create a potential road block for West Virginia’s passing game.
“We lost a couple of corners, but we have a couple of guys who played last year, some junior college guys that have really stepped up. We’ve got Darrius White, who’s eligible for the first year here playing for me who’s had an extremely good camp,” he said. “Then we have a transfer in Riyahd Jones coming in who’s provided a lot of depth there. And I think we’ve recruited really well in terms of freshmen at the cornerback position. I think overall, we’re ahead of where we’ve been in the past in the secondary,” said Curtis, per gseagles.com.
Shelton Gibson, who’s expected to have a breakout season for West Virginia, says he’s learned a lot about maneuvering away from tough defenders while spending ample time last season watching how teammate Kevin White worked his magic.
“I have to step up because I know I’m gonna play a lot this year. Last year I watched Kev (Kevin White) and Mario (Alford) and saw how they did,” said Gibson during West Virginia’s fall football camp.
The Eagles will have two returning starters in Matt Dobson and Antonio Glover at the safety positions when they arrive in Morgantown. Dobson hauled in 62 tackles last season along with three interceptions, one of which he returned 100 yards for a touchdown. Glover had 61 tackles and an interception.
While WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson continuously boasts about the experience his players bring to the field, the Eagles are also working with a battle-scarred defense filled with seniors.
Steve Williams, who transferred to Georgia Southern from the University of Pittsburgh, also thrives from the safety position. Junior cornerback Darius Jones can add an extra level of passing difficulty as one of the best pass break-up specialists in the Sun Belt Conference. Jones is expected to fill the nickel spot.
Last but not least, redshirt senior Riyahd Jones, a transfer from the University of Tennessee football program, has made his way back to the GSU Eagles after transferring to the Volunteers in 2012. With the re-addition of Jones, describing the Georgia Southern secondary as ‘experienced’ could be considered an understatement.
West Virginia offensive line coach Ron Crook believes the most difficult part of handling the Georgia Southern defense will be protecting the quarterback, first and foremost.
“The hardest thing with the protection is going from a three man front where you have the ability to slide four guys to pick up a blitz to a four man front where you can only slide three guys,” said Crook in a WVU press release. “At this stage, we’re really focused on different techniques that go with the four man front as opposed to a three man front.”
Georgia Southern head coach Willie Fritz also commented on the Eagles secondary. “We got longer, taller, faster back there,” he said. The Mountaineers will spend the remainder of this week and the next going over game situations and preparing for the season opener. Just eight days remain until West Virginia faces Georgia Southern at Milan Puskar Stadium on September 5 at 7 p.m.
Georgia Southern stats and coaches quotes originated from gseagles.com.