Avery Finding His Fit In West Virginia’s Secondary
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It’s not the easiest thing, being as versatile as Toyous Avery.
Avery entered West Virginia’s program fresh off a pair of junior college seasons at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, where he redshirted as a freshman and turned in a solid second year in earning second team honors in the Jayhawk Conference – among the toughest juco league’s in the nation.
It was there that he was plucked by the Mountaineer staff, who saw him as an adaptable playmaker who could play special teams and fit into multiple safety roles. Avery would have one season to learn various positions, filling in as situations warranted before battling for a starting spot this year. But Dravon Askew-Henry’s ACL tear shook up the depth chart, bumping Jeremy Tyler to the starting role at free safety and permanently sliding Jarrod Harper to bandit with Kyzir White locking down the spur slot.
That’s how it went throughout the regular season, until Avery’s play began to push Tyler at free toward the end of the year. The Georgia native got the call to start in the postseason, his first at the major college level coming against Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
The performance was solid, though not spectacular. Avery had two interceptions called back because of pass interference penalties, and it could be argued at least one of the calls was suspect. But the junior was also beaten badly on a deep pass for a score while finishing with five tackles, three solo, and a pass break-up.
So it is that Avery enters this season as a potential – potential – starter at bandit who has enough speed, field vision and tackling ability to see time on many special teams units. Right now, he’s locked in a battle with state native Derrek Pitts, though Avery’s 5-foot-11, 202-pound frame is much better suited for the rigors of the run game than Pitts’ 6-0, 175 pounds.
“It doesn’t really matter to me,” Avery said of where he’s positioned. “Free safety was my first position when I got here, then I learned bandit during the season. So it doesn’t matter. There’s less running at bandit, more running at free safety. It’s more physical with bandit. You’re in the box a lot. I like that.”
It also seems to fit his skill set much better, especially compared with what Askew-Henry offers at free. The two, now in the same redshirt junior class, started to feed off one another during spring drills, and that continued into the 7-on-7 summer sessions and initial practices this fall.
“We talk a lot, both on and off the field,” Avery said. “It makes things a lot easier when you are talking on the field. He tells me what I could do better and he takes things off me, too. We feed off each other, and I feel good with him back there.”
They’ve also begun to play off each other well, getting a feel for what the other can do and reacting accordingly. It figures that Avery will hold on to the starting slot at bandit, with Pitts filling in, while Askew-Henry is backed by Shane Commodore. That leaves White and Marvin Gross at spur, with a series of newcomers battling for spare snaps. Still, it’ll be a position to watch as fall camp ramps up and contact drills begin later this week.