Avery Found A Home In WVU’s 3-3-5 Defense
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The first time Toyous Avery laid eyes on West Virginia’s 3-3-5 stack defense he knew he’d found what was looking for.
“When I was being recruited here and I saw the defense I fell in love with it,” he said. “Why wouldn’t a DB want to come here? It’s a hard defense but you’ve just got to be gap sound.”
West Virginia was hardly the first place on his mind.
When he came out of Covington High in Newton, Ga., as a three-star recruit five years ago he was just a wide-eyed kid, not yet enough of finished product to head to the big time, so he went off to Coffeyville, Kansas, for some junior college seasoning.
He redshirted his first year, then had himself one of those do-everything seasons that a defensive coordinator like WVU’s Tony Gibson loves to see, making 69 tackles, including 39 solo stops, 5.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, five pass breakups and a team-high five interceptions for the nation’s No. 14 team.
And so it was that he came to WVU, to the Big 12, to play in that 3-3-5 defense that cherishes safeties, which was where he would wind up.
Ah, the Big 12. It’s a lot different than anything he’d seen and he remembers well his introduction.
“When I saw a third-string receiver get in on first down and run a go route, and then the second stringer got in on second down and did it and then the first-string guy came in on third down and ran another go route, that’s when I was like ‘wow,’ he recalled.
All of a sudden he knew what the Big 12 was all about.
“You look at those GPS’s,” he said, referring to the GPS’s they wear to keep a record of how much they are moving.
“My readings after a game are like crazy,” he added.
And he isn’t a receiver. Last year, in the opening game, WVU’s Gary Jennings ran 10 miles according to the GPS.
You get used to it, though. See, college football is always a learning curve.
Take Avery’s first start and the two interceptions he made but didn’t make. That was in the Russell Athletic Bowl against Miami two years ago, a reward start for how much he had progressed that season.
The two interceptions he made? Each wiped out by a flag.
“I thought I had really made a couple of great plays, but the official said that both times I used my hands and that’s why he flagged me,” Avery said.
Live and learn … and now he’s the one doing the teaching, taking kids under his wing at WVU as camp approaches.
Players such as bandit freshman safety E.J. Brown, junior spur Jovanni Stewart and Josh Norwood, a spring star who had the coaching staff gushing his praises are among those he’s priming for the season.
“Really anybody, I encourage everybody to come,” Avery said. “Whoever I see it’s like, ‘come on, you don’t have a choice.’”
See, the idea is that this is a defense that gets picked on a lot. A year ago, it underachieved badly and this year’s expectations from those on the outside looking in aren’t seeing it as any kind of force, especially since Will Grier, David Sills V and Gary Jennings’ dominating offense seems to be so much further advanced.
That bothers Avery and his defensive brothers.
“I wouldn’t be honest if I said we didn’t take it personally,” he said. “We got a big chip on our shoulder. That’s why everything we do right now is hard … work hard, we got a big Dawg mentality.”
That’s what you need in this defense because it is a defense that demands an aggressive attitude but also a lot of control.
They have to be careful not to overdo it.
“Coach Gibson gets us in the right position, and he always tells us, don’t try to make off- the-wall plays. Just do your job, the play will come to you. It’s guaranteed,” he said.
Just do your job.
“This is a gap-sound defense,” Avery explained. “If we do what we’re supposed to do, I feel like we can do anything. We’ve got plenty of guys that know what they’re doing, and I think we’re going to have more guys this year not afraid to make plays, too. We’ve got guys up front that can make plays as well.
“We’ve just got to bring people along,” Avery continued. “I do extra film work with the younger guys and extra footwork because I want everybody to be on the same page. I don’t want any slack off whenever (a starter) comes off the field.”
And it will be running on full steam for the opener against Tennessee in Charlotte at 3:30 p.m. on September 1.
“We’re always going to be hyped up for the first game,” he said. “Any game, really, but I’m not going to say it’s going to be easy getting ready for Tennessee. It’s just a mindset we have. Every opponent, it’s just the next game up.”