Defensive Spotlight Shines On Safeties

West Virginia’s Defense Will Ride, Rely On Safeties


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – With the regular season on the horizon, West Virginia’s assistant coaches are tightening the two-deep and making rotation decisions that will affect the early stages of the season. For the Mountaineer safeties, that means trying to finalize the reserves around three surefire starters.

Position coach Matt Caponi gave some insight in to his groups progress heading into the season so far, including the physical play produced by Kyzir White, Dravon Askew-Henry and Toyous Avery.

“In the middle, I like the aggressiveness we’re playing with,” Caponi said. “I  don’t think my guys are scared, which is a good thing. They like to hit, but we still got to do certain things, clean up wise.”

His group will be one of the most important on the team as the Big 12 has a heap of offensive talent that is often headlined by dynamic receivers. Working by committee has been one of the things that bodes well for this defense and Caponi stressed that when talking about the direction he was going with for his second group of players.

“We’re just trying to find the right spot for some of the guys, because the top 3 are pretty solid,” Caponi said. “Behind them we have to find the right fit, the good fit. But the more positions those guys know, they know it makes us a better defense with being able to mix and match.”

One of the players that will be a part of the “mixing and matching” will be true freshman Kenny Robinson. Caponi had encouraging words to say about him thus far, especially when asked if having a first year player at free safety creates worries.

“I can’t say it doesn’t a little bit but he’s done well,” Caponi said. “The things that he’s messed up on are all correctable. It’s not huge. I have confidence in him.”

This philosophy of working by committee is something the Mountaineers have done well on all three levels of the defense. But in order for committees to be effective, leaders must be present on the team.

White will be looked at as one of those potential leaders following his junior season in which he was named to the All-Big 12 second team after finishing second on the team in sacks and third in tackles for loss. Being the younger brother of former Mountaineer receiver and first round NFL draft pick Kevin White has shone the spotlight more in his direction.

“I don’t think I’m the biggest talkative leader, but I like to lead by example,” White said. “Gibby told me before, he just wants me to talk more. That’s just something that I have to get used to. I just like leading by example.”

When asked if there was any mounting pressure on the upcoming season with expectations at a high level, White had a simple response.

“Not really, I just think of it as motivation,” he said. “I just want to not get complacent and keep working hard every day and get better.”