By John Antonik for WVUsports.com
August 12, 2011 01:28 PM
West Virginia’s defense has a need for speed. Senior free safety Eain Smith says the Mountaineer defense is built on fast guys and that’s why defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel doesn’t want his players’ brains tying up their feet.
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“(Speed) is what this defense is built on,” Smith said Wednesday. “The players that are being recruited such as (Josh) Francis or Bruce (Irvin), they are just great for this system. These guys are just freaks of nature, honestly.”
Smith said reaction time is the key to having a fast, aggressive defense.
“It’s all about reaction and instinct,” Smith said, snapping his fingers to demonstrate his point. “You see something, go; don’t think, just go. That’s how you make your plays.”
In order to play fast, all 11 players must know what each other is doing at all times and Casteel will not move on to something new in his defense until he is sure ALL of his guys understand the concept he’s teaching that day.
“If you don’t know A you can’t move on to B, that’s his motto,” said Smith.
Secondary coach Steve Dunlap illustrates Smith’s point. Dunlap was West Virginia’s defensive coordinator in 1996 when the Mountaineers had the nation’s No. 1-ranked defense and then the next year things were totally different with several new players – which is much similar to this year’s circumstances.
“That next group thought they were going to go out there and everything was going to be OK,” Dunlap recalled. “It doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to earn your stripes every day. That ’97 team, about three games into the season we took about a third of our defense out because they couldn’t handle it. We were making so many mistakes we couldn’t handle it.”
Casteel’s defense may be simple to the guys playing in it, but Smith said that’s not necessarily the case for opposing offenses trying to attack it.
“You don’t want anybody on offense to know what you’re doing,” he said. “That’s to our advantage. If they don’t know where the pressure is coming from that’s to our benefit.”
That is, as long as everyone is playing the same defense. Have two guys in the back playing cover two and three guys playing cover zero, well, you’ve got a problem.
“That’s touchdown, and we don’t want that,” Smith laughed.
And that’s why Casteel will make sure everyone is on the same page before moving on.