Negative Plays A Positive for WVU Defense

Negative Plays A Positive for WVU Defense


MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — It seems only fitting that the tables should be turned after West Virginia was thrown for a loss by Hurricane Florence’s intrusion into its 2018 football schedule, forcing cancellation of Saturday’s game at North Carolina State, which allows us to take a look at an unexpected characteristic of the Mountaineer defense that has developed this season.

That, of course, would be having developed the ability to throw opposing offenses for a loss.

A year ago, the Mountaineers defense had what was a bit better than an average season for them in tackles for a loss with 85.5, which figures out to 6.55 per game, while causing 315 minus yards.

Over the past decade, they have averaged 80 tackles for a loss per year of 286 yards.

What they did last season ranked them 44th in the nation, which is just about in the top third.

This year, in two games they have 20 tackles for losses to rank eighth in the NCAA behind Mississippi State, Nebraska, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Miami, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.

Toyous Avery puts a head-popping hit on Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano (2)

The count can be questioned, but not what really is going on.

In fact, the mad scientist behind the WVU defense which is more unorthodox than ever with small linebackers behind three huge down defensive linemen, is Tony Gibson, the veteran defensive coordinator, and he had the count different.

“I think it was 21 TFLs; wasn’t it? No, 21.5 actually,” he said.

Whatever. It’s a lot.

“In Game 1 (against SEC opponent Tennessee) I was shocked that we had 12 coming out of that one,” Gibson admitted.

But after he looked at the film and saw what they had done, he changed his goals for his defense.

“Then, my expectations were set pretty high for the guys,” he admitted.

In truth, it started right from the first snap when nose guard Kenny Bigelow Jr., the quick yet mountainous graduate transfer from USC, broke through and not only buried the Volunteer quarterback but knocked the ball loose for a 10-yard loss.

“The penetration we’re getting up front and playing with fresh bodies, I think that’s a big part of it. I think the stat is out of the 21.5 we have – if I’m not mistaken – has come from 14 different guys, or something like that,” he said.

The WVU stat sheet shows 13 players owning at least a part of a tackle for a loss, but why quibble over one play.

“That’s pretty impressive for that stat. We have a couple of DBs (defensive backs) in the mix as well for getting TFLs. That’s good thing on screen plays and some different things like that. Usually, (redshirt junior linebacker) David (Long Jr.) had to get them all by himself, but everybody is contributing now.”

Indeed, once upon a time the tackling machine that is David Long did make most of the tackles for a loss, leading the team with 16.5 last year despite missing the first four games. His absence allowed the season total participants to reach to reach 21, but that was in 13 games as compared to the 13 who have already made a TFL in just two games this year.

This season Long is one of five players already with two or more tackles for a loss and doesn’t mind the help at all.

“We have depth at the defensive line,” Long explained. “We’re rotating them in and out. I think that’s good for the defense.”

Why is that so good? Fresh bodies, bodies ready to go full speed, for when you ask Long what is the No. 1 asset necessary in making tackles for minus yardage, he offers a two-word answer.

“Just straining,” he said.

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That may be a bit of an oversimplification, considering the time put into creating the defensive schemes and blitzes and the practice time put in to carry out those schemes, but certainly it’s a part of it.

Jabril Robinson, the graduate transfer that has smoothly moved in at defensive tackle, is from Clemson and therefore has some idea of what makes good defense and he has a slightly different take than Long on the key to such an attacking defense.

“Coach Gibby, he’s the key,” he said. “He’s a guy who knows what he wants. He uses who we are. We’re quick, a real quick defensive line, so why not use it?”

That has led him to undersized linebackers who can get around and big, quick D-linemen and then a number safeties who play like linebackers in defensive backs bodies.

The result has been a much improved defense which is attacking harder than ever.

Home forums Negative Plays A Positive for WVU Defense

This topic contains 3 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by Kevin Kinder Kevin Kinder .

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  • #69193

    Bob Hertzel
    Muskets:

    Negative Plays A Positive for WVU Defense MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — It seems only fitting that the tables should be turned after West Virginia was thrown f
    [See the full post at: Negative Plays A Positive for WVU Defense]

    #69203
    Butlereer
    Butlereer
    Muskets:

    As excited as I am about the strength and depth of the DL this year, I’m a little cautious about extrapolating 20 TFL’s to the 12 (now 11) game season. vs Tenn and YSU is much different than the conference schedule coming up.

    #69213

    mexman
    Muskets:

    Of course hard too assume we will average 10 a game BUT…

    The solid play of the line will free up Long and probably Avery for some free shots in the backfield. With those two being obvious keys for the opposing offense to focus on inlook for Dravon and Tonk to make some huge plays in critical situations as Gibby mixes up the pressure.

    Bigelow seems an obvious candidate to get in and wreak havoc but surprisingly Robinson seems more adept at run defense which is fine by me, just expected something a bit different. Donahue is a very underrated cog at the moment and of attention switches to others Rose may get his mojo back as a rush end… which is intriguing.

    #69274
    Kevin Kinder
    Kevin Kinder
    Muskets:

    As excited as I am about the strength and depth of the DL this year, I’m a little cautious about extrapolating 20 TFL’s to the 12 (now 11) game season. vs Tenn and YSU is much different than the conference schedule coming up.

    Definitely not trying to say that the results of two games predict what will happen the rest of the year. But if it does, that’s one way to slow Big 12 offenses, which are going to gain yards and score points. IF you can disrupt a couple of drives with some negative plays, that can make the difference, in, say, a 38-34 contest.

    Mex makes the good point that needs to be highlighted — if WVU is to continue the TFL trend, it’s a group effort. Long will get his, but it’s the spread across the entire defense that is important. Blitzers from the second level getting home, DLs getting 3-4 per game as a group.

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