Gibson Looks To Grad Transfers To Help WVU’s Defense
West Virginia’s preseason football camp isn’t even a week old, so there is a ton of work left in front of the Mountaineers before they are ready for their Sept. 1 season opener against Tennessee.
While WVU’s offense is a veteran unit, returning nine players with starting experience, West Virginia’s defense has more holes to fill with seven starters departing.
WVU’s defensive coordinator Tony Gibson is mixing and matching returnees with newcomers in hopes of putting together a solid overall unit.
“They look good at times and bad at times,” said Gibson, who is entering his fifth season as the Mountaineers’ defensive coordinator. “That’s fall camp. It’s not like the spring when you practice a day and then are off a day. Right now is GO time. We’re installing every day, and the grind of camp is tough mentally and physically. We have to keep them on pace. They have to keep learning and keep executing techniques.”
Gibson likes a number of his incoming freshmen. He may ultimately work a few of those rookies into the rotation, but he said one will definitely see game action from the opening bell.
“Dante Stills!!!” exuded Gibson when asked what freshmen would play. “I like everything about him – size, strength, speed, everything.”
Stills will be one new piece to WVU’s rebuilt defensive line. Gibson is counting on a pair of older players to provide additional help up front, as grad transfers Jabril Robinson from Clemson and Kenny Bigelow from USC are expected to be major factors in the Mountaineers’ 2018 d-line.
“Both guys bring a lot,” noted Gibson of the grad transfers. “They’re guys with game experience who have played at a high level. They’re proven guys, and they’re really going to help us.”
At 6-foot-4 and 307 pounds, Bigelow is a boulder in the middle of the line at the nose guard.
“He’s powerful,” Gibson said of the Elkton, Md., native who was a five-star recruit at Eastern Christian Academy. “He has really good hands. He moves well in small spaces. He’s not a guy who is going to run someone down 40 yards down field. If he does that, that’s not his fault anyway. We have 10 other guys who can do that. His job is to plug the A gaps and manhandle centers, and he does a really good job of that.
“He’s a massive man. He can play in the gap and hold onto a couple guys up front for us and let those linebackers run. Our linebackers really like him.”
As for Robinson, the former Clemson Tiger is a 6-foot-2, 273-pounder who plays defensive end in West Virginia’s 3-3-5 odd stack.
“Jabril’s motor is really impressive,” noted Gibson. “When you turn the film on, that jumps out at you. His motor never stops; he’s a high motor guy who loves to play the game. He’s smart, and obviously he’s been coached really, really well at Clemson. He brings so much to the table, and he’s really good example for the young guys.”
Whether as starters or heavily-used backups, Bigelow and Robinson figure to be key pieces to West Virginia’s defensive puzzle.
“Obviously both those guys will be important for us,” said Gibson.