By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
The roster says Daryl Worley is a sophomore.
Talk to him and you’d swear he was a senior.
A fifth-year senior.
It’s part the way he answers questions. Honestly. Self-assured. And, most importantly, intelligently.
Mostly, though, it’s what he says be it football or life itself.
See, life isn’t always easy, and he knows it.
Ask the West Virginia University football player about his uniform number – 7.
That, you see, was part of his recruitment. To get him to sign, WVU had to promise he’d get No. 7.
The reason it was so important is also part of the reason he has grown up so quickly.
It was the number he and his older cousin, Fabian Johnson, had shared growing up, Worley wearing it on the football field, Johnson on the basketball court, right up until Fabian Johnson couldn’t wear it any more.
One early October day in 2010, they found Fabian Johnson murdered execution style in a park.
“I told him I would wear the number as long as I could,” said Worley.
Sometimes growing up isn’t a whole lot of fun. Worley was a high school sophomore.
Johnson was just 18.
Now Worley is here, the No. 7 on his Mountaineer jersey, his role being to fill in a huge void that existed in the Mountaineer defense last year.
He is playing right cornerback.
Last year, as a freshman, he showed them he could play college football … anywhere.
He was a corner, a safety, even a linebacker.
What he did a senior would have trouble doing. He handled it as a freshman.
“Basically, being so young, I was just trying to play my part … make plays where I could, do what I could, do what the coaches asked me to while staying a part of the scheme,” he explained.
Wasn’t it difficult, though, to learn two, three positions rather than one, and do it so quickly?
“Yes, it was. It was a little tough. You just have to become a football player and not let one technique overcome another technique. Just know what you have to do when you are out on the field in certain positions and in certain situations.”
That is not freshman speak.
He remembered his first time on the field for WVU.
“It’s a crazy experience,” he said. “From the players around you and the fans, there’s so much adrenaline you feel like you have to impress so many people. You are so anxious not to mess up that you have to clear your mind and make plays.”
You think you are going at it at your best, then you view your first game film.
“Some of the movements I was making, I was like, ‘You look stiff; you should be moving quicker than that.’ … It was when I first got out there I was overthinking things, overdoing it, and I wasn’t playing as a football player.”
The defense over the past two seasons has been so vulnerable that they are going back to the 3-3-5 they played during coach Dana Holgorsen’s first season at WVU, the defense that was played at the school under Rich Rodriguez.
And with that, they have given Worley a major assignment. He has one job.
“It’s a big relief, a big weight off my shoulders knowing I’m locked into one position and can just become the best corner I can be,” he said. “I can study one position, study what players are on my side of the field, and I will be able to break things down into a sharper image. My mind will be working faster; I’ll be thinking faster.”
He sees this as an improvement for the whole defense, not flip-flopping from side to side as they did last year.
“I’m glad we’re just playing one side at this point. I felt in the Big 12, the offense is moving so fast that when we’re running across the field they are snapping the ball, so we might get caught out of position. Being on one side of the field makes it easier for us,” he explained.
Worley sees this as a new beginning and, again, as he explains it he does so with maturity, without any personal thoughts, only team.
“I think this year it’s more my standards and what I’m working for,” he said. “We have meetings with our position coaches and strength coaches and we set goals and they set goals for us. Basically, right now I’m fine tuning myself to be the best player I can be.”
And his vision of that is?
“Basically, now I’m at right corner, I’m just working to shut my side of the field down,” he answered.
He understands he can’t just do it with his athleticism, as good as that is.
“Week in and week out, with all the top-notch receivers we see in the Big 12, you have to study each one,” he noted.
It is, quite simply, as big a challenge as he could ask for.
“It’s the hardest position on the field on the defensive side of the ball,” he said. “With so much talent on the other side of the ball, you have to be at your best every week.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.