West Virginia opens its season in less than a month against No. 22 Virginia Tech, but defensive coordinator Tony Gibson says the Mountaineers have plenty of work to do on the defensive side of the ball, according to WVU Sports’ John Antonik.
“We just haven’t done enough yet,” Gibson said Monday, according to Antonik. “We’ve had a couple of live days, but you’re talking 25 snaps each day so it’s not [enough]. Obviously, we’re not game ready, but we’re not even really ready for the [scrimmage] part of it yet.”
West Virginia’s problem stems from the untested nature of many of their players. Eight defensive starters departed Morgantown after last season, and Gibson will have to plug those holes with players who haven’t had much experience against the high-powered offenses of the Big 12.
At nose tackle, for example, Gibson might rotate four players during a game until one person stands out above the rest, according to Antonik. At cornerback, both starting spots are up for grabs.
Outside of senior middle linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton, the linebacker position is up in the air, and sophomore David Long Jr.’s injury won’t help matters. Gibson said redshirt freshman Brendan Ferns might wind up as the backup at all three linebacker spots.
Kyzir White has his strong safety spot locked down, and junior Dravon Askew-Henry can most likely be penciled in at free safety.
West Virginia is coming off a season in which the Mountaineers had the second-best scoring defense in the Big 12, trailing only Kansas State. They allowed the third-fewest yards per game and forced 14 interceptions, second most in the conference.
But an untested crop of players might cause some headaches for Gibson and coach Dana Holgorsen, at least for the first part of the season.
“We have 22 more days to get these guys prepared,” Gibson said. “Are we tapped out? I hope not, but with so many guys that have not played in a real game it’s hard to tell right now.”