The Times West Virginian

Sports

August 23, 2013

Joseph physical in WVU secondary

MORGANTOWN — The observation was meant as a compliment, for surely there are not too many people who are going to insult West Virginia University’s hard-hitting safety Karl Joseph to his face.

But the question had been put to him, one that in many ways has been clawing away at an inquiring reporter’s mind ever since seeing him combine with Ishmael Banks for his first collegiate tackle in last year’s opener against Marshall, stopping Travon Van five yards shy of a first down on a 12-yard completion from quarterback Rakeem Cato.

The sheer power with which he hit then and now made one wonder if, indeed, a safety were more linebacker than defensive back.

Considering the reckless manner in which both Joseph and his brother in mayhem, Darwin Cook, play, one might categorize them more as a Grant Wiley than a Keith Tandy … a player charged with hitting first and worrying about the pass second.

But you worried Joseph might take that the wrong way, considering how seldom any defense back covered any receiver last year.

Joseph didn’t hesitate when the question was put to him.

“Defensive back,” he said, without hesitation, echoing the answer put forth just a few moments earlier by new safeties coach Tony Gibson when he was asked the same question. “I don’t play that close to the line of scrimmage.”

That well may be true, but, it seemed, that he and Cook often ended plays near the line of scrimmage. In fact, Joseph had 7 tackles for losses last year, Cook 3 while each recorded a sack.

If they are defensive backs, is their mentality more DB or safety?

“A little bit of both,” Joseph said. “When I get down in the box I’m more of a linebacker. When I’m back there I think pass first. When you are in the box, you have to have that kind of mindset.”

And WVU has a number of defensive alignments on running downs that bring Joseph forward as if he were another linebacker, hoping to confuse the offensive blocking and to take advantage of his powerful tackling.

“The guy we drop down into the Spur is more of a linebacker on run downs and on different personnel groupings,” is the way Gibson explained. “The other team goes to one back, and it becomes more of a nickel defense.”

But having safeties who can cover a tight end or a back or slot receiver as well as punish them after catching ball is exactly what Gibson and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson are seeking.

“Cook and Karl, they hit like linebackers, but they’re pretty skilled at covering,” Gibson said. ”They are getting better at that and understand it.”

In the Big 12 in particular, you have to play pass first. Baylor, for example, may have the conference’s best running back and a Heisman Trophy candidate, but you better not concentrate on stopping him at the expense of covering the deep pass.

“We have to defend the deep ball,” Gibson said. “What we tell the kids right now is you have to defend from the goal line back to the line of scrimmage. Don’t give up the deep, easy shots. We’ve stressed that a lot.”

And they have stressed punishing the man with the ball, in part because it makes him leery the next time he has it and in part because it has to slow down the tempo that so many Big 12 teams use to control the defense.

“We just run to the ball. If you get hit too many times, the tempo will slow down,” Cook said. “They’ll slow down real good.”

Joseph, just a sophomore, has become a quiet leader of the defense.

“Right now he knows what the linebackers are doing, what the D-linemen are doing. He’s kind of a voice back there, and that’s what we put on our free safeties. He has to be the guy who checks us into coverages,” Gibson said.

Gibson, of course, just returned to WVU after having coached for Rich Rodriguez at WVU, Michigan and Arizona with a one-year stop at Pitt when defensive coordinator Patterson was there.

That year at Pitt in 2011 gave him some familiarity with Cook, but he came to know Joseph from afar while at Arizona last season.

“When I first noticed him I was out on the West Coast and in a hotel,” Gibson said. “You know, we play so late we get to watch games on television. I saw Karl play a few games and I thought, ‘Wow! That kid is a pretty good player.’ And every time I watched West Virginia he was making plays and big hits.”

“Now I have an opportunity to come coach him. We’re fine tuning him so he can play within the system. You can’t play outside the box because you can’t give up a big throw. We’re trying to control him, make him understand everything that’s going on with the scheme, and he’s done a great job with that.”

The safety position is starting to take shape. Obviously, Joseph and Cook are starting.

“Those guys have the most game experience, really the only game experience,” Gibson said. “Moving a kid like Ricky Rumph back there gives me some depth and an opportunity to rest those guys on maybe passing situations.

“The same thing with K.J. Dillon, who will play on special teams and maybe some on defense. We’ll put him in for a play or two to rest someone.”

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Jones uses his attitude to lead Polar Bears

    When you look around the football field come August, you’ll see plenty of new faces for the Fairmont Senior Polar Bears. But there will be at least one very familiar face.
    TJ Jones is one of just a handful of seniors on this year’s Fairmont Senior team, and he’s hoping to go out on top.

    July 24, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • FSU football season tickets available

    Season ticket packages and VIP parking for the 2014 Fairmont State University football season are now available for purchase.
    Several options are available, including the opportunity to purchase a piece of Fairmont State history.

    July 24, 2014

  • Pirates jump on Haren early, top Dodgers, 6-1

    Josh Harrison had two hits with two RBIs and the Pittsburgh Pirates jumped on Dan Haren early in a 6-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.
    Harrison’s two-run double down the left field line capped a four-run outburst in the first against Haren (8-8).

    July 24, 2014

  • Berner, Hess lead W.Va. Open

    Threatening weather did not strike Wednesday, and it was a cool, breezy start to the 81st West Virginia Open played on the Cobb Course at The Resort at Glade Springs.
     

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, Tennessee finalize 2018 meeting

    West Virginia University and Tennessee have finalized their season-opening, Sept. 1, 2018, meeting in Charlotte, N.C., at Bank of America Stadium.
    Both teams will receive $2.5 million for the game and have a chance to earn up to $3.2 million with ticket incentives.
    Each team will buy 12,500 tickets and set aside 2,000 of its allotment for students.
    The game, played on the home field of the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, is being put on by the Charlotte Sports Federation.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Fleming, Billy.jpg WVU’s Fleming signs contract with Yankees

     Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.
    “Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been my dream to play professional baseball,” Fleming said. “It is still surreal that I get to chase my dream, but I am ready to get after it. I loved my three years at WVU and want to thank all the coaches that made it possible for me to achieve my dream.”

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos