The Times West Virginian

April 8, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: Friends fight for starting corner spot

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Common sense would tell you that one of the most pressing issues West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel is facing this spring is replacing cornerback Brandon Hogan, one of the finest ever to play the position for the Mountaineers.

And that is a strong statement at a school that produced the likes of Mike Logan and Pac Man Jones, but Hogan developed from a converted quarterback into a corner who, should his knee be back to 100 percent after knee surgery, figures to patrol the secondary for some NFL team.

Casteel, however, does not seem to be worrying very much about corner play. Moving from the other side to Hogan’s spot is Keith Tandy, who really was a dandy (you will forgive me for that one, but it just had to be said) as he took advantage of teams trying to take advantage of him and led the Big East with seven interceptions.

That, of course, left a void that needed to be filled but Casteel has strong competition under way at that spot between two players who both may deserve a starting spot.

Pat Miller and Broderick Jenkins are currently engaged in a battle for the starting job. With as much at stake as there is, you might expect it to be a bitter battle but this is one of the friendliest fights you have ever witnessed.

“We know whoever is out there has to make the plays,” Jenkins said. “If I’m not starting, I want him to make the play and if he’s not starting, he wants me to make the play.”

See, these guys are tight.

Buddies? “You bet. We’re together 24-7,” Miller noted.

When it was pointed out that they don’t room together, Miller decided to hedge that.

“OK, we’re together 17-7,” he said. “If we’re awake, we’re together.”

The two did not know each other until arriving at WVU. Jenkins had come out of Fort Myers, Fla., the same city that sent Noel Devine to West Virginia, while Miller came out of the great program at Hoover High in Birmingham, Ala.

“We hooked up the very first day we were here,” Jenkins said. “I needed an antenna cord and I didn’t know where to go. He knew so we went and have been friends ever since.”

“It’s just him,” Miller said, when asked why they clicked. “That’s it. We had the same background, the same goals.”

They also had talent, enough to get a good deal of playing time last year in passing situations on the nation’s third best defense. Both played in all 13 games with Miller actually getting a pair of starts when Hogan wasn’t available.

“Last year it went back and forth, who had a better week,” said cornerbacks coach David Lockwood. “Sometimes you get a pre-game feel. You continue to evaluate.”

As close as they are as friends and as similar as they physically, each 5-10 about 185 pounds, they bring different games to the table.

“We are two different cornerbacks,” Miller said. “I’m a finesse corner, he’s more technique.”

“Broderick is the more athletic,” Lockwood said. “He played on offense before he got here, but both show some athleticism and a chance to make plays for us.”

While Jenkins redshirted is freshman year, Miller played in nine games, giving him a leg up in experience.

Now, though, they are being tested hard under fire, big time fire as they are going against the new offense put in by Coach Dana Holgorsen, which is an interesting and proven passing offense.

The plays are run rapid-fire and they are testing the skills of the defensive secondary.

“You look at it on paper they have some of the simplest routes, but you look at how they do it, it’s complex.” Miller said.

That description was perplexing, so Miller was asked to explain.

“They run a route and you know what it is, but they have options on it,” Miller said.

“Even though it’s simple, it’s really complex. They run things that people normally wouldn’t run,” Jenkins said.

In the end, what it does is allow the player to make plays for he has the final say on how the route will be run.

“It’s good in a way for us because we won’t see another offense this explosive at a tempo like that,” Miller said. “We haven’t seen anything like it before but it is going to help us in the long run.”

The two of them know one thing … they both will be out there a lot this year, no matter which one earns the starting nod and they feel they are ready for it, in part because of what Hogan and Tandy helped them with over the past two years.

“The people in front of us helped prepare us for this year,” Jenkins said. “The seniors from last year set us up.”

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.