West Virginia Cooks up a new look at safety
College Football Videos
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."
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.
- Shell closing Franklin Park office next year
- Steelers’ Roethlisberger remains in concussion protocol
- Pitt’s Whitehead, Ollison grab ACC rookie of the year awards
- Authorities recover rifle used to kill Westmoreland police officer
- Downtown barbershop target of racial-slur graffiti
- Former Connellsville police officer wants sex-trade case dismissed
- Irwin Park ball field improvements could move forward
- Steps to reduce Sharpsburg blight start
- Budget plan calls for tax hike in Aspinwall
- Founder of Z&M Cycle Sales in Hempfield killed in Florida motorcycle crash
- Kane turns to former Maryland attorney general to lead porn email probe