West Virginia senior Darwin Cook
says he knows a good defense when he sees one. And he’s sees one with the Mountaineers this year.
He thinks the defense from a year ago that couldn’t catch a break could be a leading force this season.
“I have been around a long time, and we know when a team is a good team,” Cook said. “We feel like this is a good team. We have to get much better, but right now we’re at a good point."
Cook said the defense being a year older is a big help to the improved mentality. Players can “take it” as he put it. He said that if he misses a tackle, a player is up in his face letting him know it. But he likes that.
With fall camp ending last weekend, Cook has also gotten his chance to see and evaluate what the team has to offer. Under first-year defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, the Cleveland, Ohio resident said it’s just a different vibe this season.
A lot of it is the new scheme Patterson has installed, some of it is the new players, but a lot of it, according to Cook, is that players are hungry again.
“It’s all about our mentality and our pursuit,” he explained.
He said that too much emphasis is sometimes put on forcing turnovers, but if the defensive unit can learn to just run to the ball, turnovers will happen.
“You can run to the ball and a fumble might happen,” Cook said. “If you just walk over there, you might not get to it. If you’re there, you can scoop it up. If you’re hustling to the ball, you can pick the ball off."
Not being ready for the tempo of the Big 12 Conference a season ago has seemed to be another common theme of camp, but Cook said that more players are becoming more confident in being able to slow down some of the nation’s top offensive attacks.
He said that if receivers get hit coming across the middle, they’re not going to run as fast across the middle the next time.
“We just run to the ball. If you get hit too many times, the tempo will slow down,” Cook said. “They’ll slow down real good.”
The depth of the defense has also given Cook hope that they will see an improved season on the field. He said they’re all friends off the field, but on it, they’re “trying to get after each other.”
The togetherness is something that was missing a year ago, he admitted.
“Its bright,” Cook said. “I’m so happy. I’ve been around here a long time. I’ve seen all the defenses. I’ve been on the defenses. I’ve been on the 2010 defense. I'm not saying we’re going to be the 2010 defense, but we have the chance to be really, really good. “