By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
There was a time back during this year’s recruiting period when West Virginia University made the decision it was well stocked enough at cornerback, even with the porous pass defense the Mountaineers presented in the Big 12 last season, that they did not need to recruit any more than one freshman at the position.
True, they would go into the year with unproven players at corner, a rather crucial spot in the Big 12, but the numbers were such and the athletic skills of the young players were such that they felt secure.
They were secure enough to move Vernon Davis to receiver, to move Ricky Rumph to safety … positions they took to quite nicely.
“It is two-fold,” new cornerback coach Brian Mitchell said. “One, you want to make sure the team is put in the best situation, and if we need to move a player to help another position out, we will definitely do that.
“Ricky (Rumph) has proven that he has great football IQ. He has done a great job of learning what the safeties have done, and we have asked more of him in another role on third down in our nickel package, being the backup guy there.
“We felt that we have moved a young man that was very savvy and very talented, from a position that we had three guys that were all very similar in ability.”
Everything seemed fine, except for the fact that Terrell Chestnut now is rehabbing his knee and in the past few days talented — and, most importantly, experienced — corner Nana Kyeremeh went down with a shoulder injury that will put him out of action for the entire season.
All of a sudden, Mitchell is down to six cornerbacks.
“That is more than enough,” he said. “You would like to have five on the travel squad, possibly six depending on what the special teams’ needs are. You always want two that are developing, but you can only rep so many guys.
“If you are two deep, and you are solid, then that is great. I feel like we have a mixture of good size, speed and quickness. We still need to develop the position mastery of it, but we are progressing.”
The six are last year’s returning starter Broderick Jenkins, sophomore Avery Williams, who played in five games as a freshman but missed last year with a neck injury; redshirt freshman Brandon Napoleon, junior college transfer Ishmael Banks from Hargrave Military Academy and converted safeties Travis Bell, a junior who missed all but three games last year with a shoulder injury, and Daryl Worley, a freshman recruit out of Philadelphia who has caught everyone’s eye.
Worley will definitely challenge for a job despite being a freshman.
“We’re going to play the best football players,” Mitchell said. “Can he be assignment sound? Can he give great effort? Can he finish and make plays? He’s proven he can do all of those things. This kid signifies everything we stand for. If he can start, we’re going to start him.”
But no one has a foot up on a job at present.
“Everyone came in with a blank canvas,” Mitchell said. “We have good size, good speed, good quickness. We still need to develop the position mastery.
“Some of those kids are very similar in abilities and talents,” Mitchell continued. “We said it’s probably going to be done by committee early on. We haven’t designated one or two starters, just to make sure we promote competition.”
And Kyeremeh’s injury only accentuated the competitive situation, for he probably figured to win one of the spots.
“We will narrow the reps down probably after this week or mid-next week,” Mitchell explained. “We narrowed things down with (sophomore cornerback) Nana (Kyeremeh) not being in the mix anymore and Rumph not being in the mix, so we narrowed reps down to just those six guys.
“When you are going through camp, we need healthy bodies. We are not trying to limit the reps of guys that are developing, because we want to have fresh legs every time the guys go out there. If you can continue to develop these guys, yet strain them enough so that they are progressing, why not rep six from the corner position?”
The way Mitchell figures it, you need at least six in the mix.
“You want five on the travel squad, maybe six depending upon special teams needs,” he said.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.