WVU LB Xavier Preston: Go Out And Wreck Stuff
TCU (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) is WVU’s strongest opponent so far, and offers a vaunted ground game that will test Tony Gibson’s hopefully reinvigorated defense after an open week to recuperate.
Linebacker Xavier Preston, ninth on the team in total tackles with 11, and the rest of the defense will be challenged by the 25th best rushing offense in the nation. Led by running back Darius Anderson, a sophomore who has splashed onto the scene with 422 yards on 68 rushes and six touchdowns – three coming during the victory at then-No. 6 Oklahoma State in Stillwater – the Horned Frogs are averaging 47 points per game, third in the Big 12 behind WVU and Oklahoma.
“(TCU) has always come out and it’s always been a good game,” Preston said. “Playing them is always a good atmosphere. I’m just ready to play as far as that goes.”
West Virginia’s bye week came at a beneficial time, as the Mountaineers will play the remainder of the slate against Big 12 teams in eight consecutive weeks. Originally seen as too early in the schedule, WVU needed the time to recover from five defensive injuries and begin to hone the fundamentals on that side of the ball. Now, the team has an immediate chance to seize momentum against a Top 10 opponent.
“Recovery,” Preston said on what the team focused on during the bye week. “Taking advantage of the time off. We played a couple games straight, all of them were early. It’s kind of taxing on the body, so we just focused on getting our bodies back and making sure that we’re prepared for this week and give it our all.”
After four games, West Virginia’s defense ranks 102nd in the nation in run defense, allowing 226 rushing yards a contest while giving up six touchdowns, and allowing 5.3 yards per play. Defending powerhouse rushing attacks against Big 12 teams such as TCU, Kansas State and Oklahoma State is one area that West Virginia’s defense must improve on coming off the bye week.
“Just stopping it.” Preston said on how the team must improve on run stopping. “Just going out there playing with power, wrecking stuff. Whatever they got coming at us we just gotta make sure that we just go and try to blow it up and stop it however we can.”
One reason for West Virginia’s sub par run defense is missed tackles, and because of this, the coaching staff still rotates in a variety of players in practice and games to try and fix the problem. The Mountaineers also tackled, though not to the ground, in a pair of sessions last week, which is rare during the season.
“Tackle” was Gibson’s answer when asked the focus of the last seven days. “If you look at last week, there were two runs that went over 120 yards (against Kansas). We misfit a gap and then the other one we had about eight guys miss a tackle. That is the biggest problem right now in run defense.”
But not the lone one. WVU must get better play along the defensive front and manage to fit up against a TCU team that will use misdirection, power sets and spread horizontally and vertically.
“We do need to tackle better,” said Preston, a senior starter at the strongside ‘backer slot. “I missed a couple tackles last game against Kansas late going into the half. We can always improve on just the basic things of football so tackling is a big thing for us.
“During practice our coaches make us practice a technique where we tackle without going all the way down,” said Preston explaining WVU’s thud-up sessions. “It’s basically a mindset once you make the tackle, you make sure you get the guy down and can’t think about anything else other than that.”