Co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest saw improvement in West Virginia’s defense from game one to game two, now, he hopes that continues throughout the season.
“The first game was sort of a wash,” DeForest said of West Virginia’s 69-34 blowout win over Marshall back on Sept. 1. “It was a learning experience both for us as a staff and the kids with the scheme. I think right now after the second game they have shown that they understand what we want them to do, but we didn’t execute tackling as well as we wanted to.”
DeForest correctly pointed out several instances during last weekend’s game against James Madison when a Mountaineer defender had a ball carrier in his sights but could not bring him down, especially elusive quarterback Justin Thorpe.
“We missed six sacks and we missed four in the first game,” said DeForest. “We have five and we could have 15 sacks right now and that would lead the country.”
Cleaning up the tackling issues are concern No. 1 for DeForest when the Mountaineers face 2-1 Maryland this Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium. Concern No. 2 for WVU’s first-year defensive aide is slowing down Maryland’s fleet group of wide receivers, led by true freshman Stefon Diggs, considered the nation’s top high school wide receiver recruit last winter.
“It’s by far the best skill set that we’ve seen,” said DeForest. “Even though the quarterback (Perry Hills) is young their receivers are very, very talented and their running back (Brandon Moss) is coming back and I really think he’s a good player. Their offensive line is a little bit inexperienced and their quarterback, but if they can get the ball in the hands of their playmakers they can make you miss and they can hit home runs and that is our concern as a staff.”
To try and combat that, DeForest said it will be imperative for the defense to try and confuse Hills, a true freshman making his fourth career start on Saturday and his first on the road in a truly hostile environment.
“The more looks we can give them – show them one thing and do another – that is definitely going to be a part of our approach,” DeForest explained. “If we can confuse him and make him hold the ball a little bit longer and then maybe we can get to him with a four-man pass rush.”
The key, of course, is when they get there to get Hills on the ground and not let him escape to create time for playmakers like Diggs, Marcus Leak, Justus Pickett, Kerry Boykins and tight end Matt Furstenburg to get free in West Virginia’s secondary.
“It’s just about finishing at the end of the play,” DeForest said. “Whether we’re blitzing and it’s the right blitz track, those things I think we understand, it’s just a matter of when I get there, how do I finish?”Check out Antonik's new book The Backyard Brawl: Stories from One of the Weirdest, Wildest, Longest Running, and Most Intense Rivalries in College Football History now available in bookstores. A portion of the sales benefit the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Also, be sure to "Like" the new Backyard Brawl Facebook page and tell us your personal WVU-Pitt story.