Pat Miller and Brodrick Jenkins have spent the past year and a month playing make-believe cornerback.
They’d practice every day, go through the drills and study the situations, but always come game day there was Keith Tandy and Brandon Hogan there to carry the load as older players, more experienced players.
Miller and Jenkins were going through the kind of internship that most college football players go through. You wait your turn and they were down with that.
Then, on Tuesday morning, the internship ended. Brandon Hogan, among the best defenders the Mountaineers have and perhaps the premier cornerback in the Big East Conference, was suspended indefinitely after being charged with driving under the influence. He was caught after going the wrong way down a one-way street, which is sort of symbolic of what most of his career has been.
All of a sudden, one of those two players – or perhaps Brantwon Bowser, an older player but one who is probably more suited to safety than cornerback – would start and the other certainly would play.
As their position coach David Lockwood, himself a one-time Mountaineer cornerback, would put it, “It’s time to walk the walk.” Lockwood said.
Indeed, it is, for the opponent is not Coastal Carolina nor is it Marshall.
A good Maryland team, off to a similar 2-0 start to the Mountaineers, is the opponent at noon on Saturday at Puskar Stadium.
Make no doubt that the news of Hogan’s suspension made its way to College Park, Md., at the speed of light once it was announced and was greeted by the Terrapins as nothing less than an opportunity to take advantage of.
It was safety Robert Sands who put it best when asked about the situation whichever one of the two young corners are on the field.
“The bullets are real now and they’ll be flying,” Sands said.
Miller and Jenkins expect to be ready.
Miller, a sophomore out of Hoover High in Hoover, Ala., has already been in the national TV spotlight, although it isn’t as you might think. He was in the spotlight on MTV.
His freshman and sophomore years were documented on MTV’s “Two-a-Days”, a reality show that had total access to the Hoover program.
"It gets you ready for a lot of different things," Miller told Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail last year. "I was a lot better because of it. Someone was always watching. If someone messed up, it was on camera and you messed up on TV. It taught you consequences to the way you act, the way you practice, the way you play, the way you do anything."
That’s a lot of pressure on a high school freshman and sophomore, but then so is beating Florida’s Nease High, quarterbacked by a guy named Tim Tebow.
Now it’s true that Miller wasn’t the star of the team or the show, being young, but he was a coming player and now this Saturday might just turn into Miller time.
“It is an opportunity for me to show people I can play and can fill [Hogan’s] shoes,” he said.
He and Jenkins have had a lot of guidance from Tandy and Hogan.
“They told us that you just go out and play your game and everything will work itself out,” Miller said.
He understands that you won’t win every battle.
“This is Division I. You will get beat sometime, but you have to have a short memory,” he said.
Jenkins spent a good bit of time this camp running with the first team, even ahead of Hogan. It was a sign of confidence in him and it was also a good chance for the coaching staff to see what he could do.
What everyone saw was that he had talent.
“Broderick he has some of the best feet and hips I’ve seen since I’ve been here. His feet are way better than mine,” Tandy said.
Jenkins, who is from Fort Myers, Fla., which is Noel Devine’s home town, has leaned on Devine as a leader.
“I’m always trying to give him some of my wisdom. I feel I can help a younger player,” Devine said. “We were living in and grew up in the same town, we have a lot of similarities. It’s like I’m preaching to him.”
Come Saturday, though, the preaching ends. It’s time for Jenkins or Miller to step forward.
“It’s time to grow up,” Lockwood said.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.