WVU tackling biggest issue
By John Harris
Published: Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, 11:27 p.m.
In praising his team's next opponent, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen challenged his defense to tackle better entering Saturday's 4:30 p.m. game against James Madison at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
“They're sound in what they do, and they tackle well,” Holgorsen said of the 2-0 Dukes. “They've only missed 10 tackles in two games. I wish we could say that about our defense, but we can't at this point.”
What Holgorsen will say at this point is that his defense remains a work in progress.
No. 9 West Virginia (1-0) yielded 545 total yards in a 69-34 win over Marshall on Sept. 1. Holgorsen was pleased with his defense's overall play but felt it was lacking in certain areas.
Tackling, for instance.
“We'll have to tackle well. That's one of the things coming out of this (first) game, that we've got to do a better job of tackling,” said Holgorsen, whose offense ranks No. 2 nationally but is No. 117 defensively. “We missed too many tackles.”
Marshall converted nine of its 19 third downs, a fact that didn't please first-year defensive coordinator Joe DeForest.
Deforest, hired away from Oklahoma State because of his familiarity with the Big 12, explained that 20 of the Mountaineers' top 30 defenders were playing for the first time.
“Defensively, we need to tackle better and get better on third down,” DeForest said. “If you tackle better on third down, you're probably getting off the field, which reduces the snaps, which reduces the yards. It always comes back to that. We lined up well, we played physical, we played fast and our first downs were great. We just didn't tackle very good on third down.”
A lack of experience may have contributed to missed assignments. As a precaution, the defensive staff has devoted a great deal of time to teaching since the Marshall game.
“We had some alignment issues with our linebackers lined up a yard more outside, then they wouldn't have a play,” DeForest said. “So it is just being disciplined in our alignments and our eyes. We watched the tape and made those corrections, and hopefully we get better this week. They say you make your biggest improvement from game one to game two.”
Among the adjustments is becoming more adept at pressuring the quarterback when rushing when only three players.
“I was excited when we did bring four guys,” defensive line coach Erik Slaughter said. “We have to improve when we bring three guys. That is part of our scheme — make the quarterback hold the ball with eight guys back.”
Junior safety Darwin Cook ranks among the Mountaineers' most experienced defenders. He started all 13 games last season and has been tabbed by the coaching staff to assume more of a leadership role this year.
“We are not in midseason form yet,” Cook said. “We haven't even scratched the surface of what we can be.”
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.