Depth Chart? Not Yet For WVU Corners
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia cornerbacks coach Doug Belk didn’t get the chance to talk to the media at Alabama, but he has picked up the art of hiding some things from one of the masters — Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban.
To the frustration of many who cover ‘Bama, Saban only allows his assistant coaches to talk to the media once per year during the season, and that certainly extended to all of his staffers, of which Belk was one prior to coming to WVU. Mountaineer head coach Dana Holgorsen is much better in that regard, allowing all of his assistants to speak throughout the season, so it was a new thing for Belk to deal with when he came aboard. He’s done well, but manages to keep some things under wraps, such as exact positioning on the depth chart.
That’s understandable for a couple of reasons. First, the Mountaineers don’t want to tip their hands as to some players that might or might not be on the field against Virginia Tech. (The Hokies are doing the same, especially at quarterback.) Second, by not identifying a depth chart, Belk can hope to keep competition high among those who are vying for playing time and roles this year.
One player in that mix, graduate transfer Corey Winfield, is recovering from thumb surgery. A decision has not yet been made on how much he will be able to practice while he heals, but Belk does admit that, despite his experience, he needs more familiarity in the Mountaineer system.
“I think he will be ready to go to help us some kind of way early in the season,” Belk said, “but I still think he has a lot of work to do as far as scheme with what we do here. He has a lot of experience at Syracuse starting 20-plus games, but I think we need to get him up to speed. He needs as many reps as he can get.”
In addition to running through reads and recognition during drills, there’s also the matter of tackling. Winfield will be out of that for a bit as he heals, but Belk is reasonably happy where the corners are now in that regard.
“I think we have a really good physical group. We spend a lot of time on circuits and drills, and in our individual time we work a lot on tackling. I think one advantage is that Coach Holgorsen gives us the chance to actualy tackle in practice, which a lot of people don’t do. It’s new for me, but it’s a good thing for us to get live work in tackling against really good skill players in space.”
WVU is trying to prevent wear and tear on players in tackling drill, but still provide them with a realistic experience, by using tackling dummies and extra padding wherever possible. Every defender works against big rolling doughnut pads that provide moving targets, and defensive linemen add their own twist by donning armpads and serving as targets for their linemates, albeit with a padded landing area. Without beating everyone up, the hope is that the extra technique work on tackling will pay dividends in both manners over the course of the season.
With almost more than two weeks of practice still to go, Belk thinks that the defense has gotten good preparation from its offensive counterpart. However, just like tackling practice against pads, there’s a transition to be made to the real thing.
“I think we get a really good look for our offense. We have some really good receivers, and our quarterback is throwing the ball as good as anybody that I have been around. The only things you can’t simulate is the crowd, and sometimes the speed of the game is a little bit different.”