TribLIVE

| Sports

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

West Virginia Cooks up a new look at safety

College Football Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Josh Sickles
Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011
 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The first time Darwin Cook played safety, it didn't go well.

"I was excited," he said. "I really felt like I was going to be a good safety, but when I came here, it was a whole different ballgame."

Cook, a defensive end in high school, matched up against former West Virginia speedster Jock Sanders on his first play. Needless to say, the results weren't the best.

"He crossed me up real bad and broke both my ankles," Cook said.

Since then, it's gotten better — a lot better.

Cook has become an effective boundary safety in the Mountaineers' defense. The redshirt sophomore made a team-high 11 tackles in Saturday's victory against Norfolk State and was named the squad's Defensive Champion of the Week.

"He's made a really tough transition playing defensive end in high school," safeties coach Steve Dunlap said. "When he came here, he totally had no idea what it took to be a safety, but to his credit, he's worked extremely hard."

Cook did everything at Shaw High School in East Cleveland, Ohio — playing defensive end, wide receiver and punter. Dunlap said he attended a game in which Cook, who was attempting to punt, turned a bad snap into a 55-yard touchdown run. That kind of athleticism made the West Virginia coaches think Cook could become a solid safety.

But athleticism can take a player only so far. He came from a high school defense that didn't use assignments, but he's quickly mastering the preparation that he needs to be successful.

"The main thing that was hard to overcome was watching film and actually studying and actually having a defense that you actually had to know some assignments," he said.

After a redshirt season in 2009, he played in all 13 games last year, posting nine tackles and a fumble recovery. After Saturday's standout effort, he leads the team with 15 tackles this season.

Cook, a Browns fan, models his game after Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. He likes the aggressiveness that Polamalu plays with and tries to mimic that.

Just like Polamalu moves around in the Steelers' defense, Cook is used all over the field in West Virginia's 3-3-5 stack. The safeties are versatile and do everything from playing outside linebacker in run support to blitzing to covering receivers.

"When you see people moving around, it's usually our safeties," Dunlap said. "That's the fun part of coaching: We get to do a lot of things."

Cook said he's happy with his progress but knows there's room for improvement.

"It feels good," he said. "I really don't think about it much because I can't get complacent."

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Kang’s 9th-inning home run gives Pirates wild victory over Twins
  2. Steelers’ Wheaton adjusting his game moving to slot receiver
  3. Rossi: ‘Hockey guy’ Sutter will be missed
  4. More than 100 stamp bags confiscated in Greensburg; 4 arrested
  5. Penguins trade Sutter to Canucks, sign free agent center Fehr
  6. Pirates notebook: Prospect Tucker unaware of ‘trade’ frenzy
  7. Irwin woman waives sex charges to court
  8. Homeville Viaduct project should extend life of span
  9. Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell gets suspension, fine reduced
  10. Intrepid VFW post in West Mifflin earns all-state designation
  11. Pirates’ Liriano unaffected by poor last outing against Twins