Courage and Ability
By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
July 13, 2009
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Keith Tandy is the byproduct of a West Virginia recruiting philosophy started years ago – sign as many high school quarterbacks as you can and if they all can’t play quarterback in college, then find another place for them to play.
The reasoning is simple: today’s best athletes in high school play quarterback.
“The more athletic people are playing quarterback just because you can win fast with that,” Tandy explains.
Both of West Virginia’s expected starting corners, Tandy and Brandon Hogan, were quarterbacks in high school. And both were really good.
Hogan was the Virginia player of the year his senior season and actually began his WVU career as a slot receiver, while Tandy passed for more than 8,000 yards at Christian County (Ky.) High School, including a 528-yard, eight-TD performance in one game.
Like Hogan, Tandy knew he was moving to another position when he signed with the Mountaineers.
Now Tandy is playing a position that requires the most athletic ability and courage on the football field. He’s got to be able to run with the fastest wide receivers in college football, he’s got to be able to diagnose plays quickly, and he’s got to have the courage of a cat burglar.
Most coaches will readily admit that cornerback is the one area on defense where you can’t have a weakness. If you have two good corners, then you’ve got a real good chance of having a good defense. If you have two bad ones, well, your offense better be prepared to score a lot of points.
“Technique and confidence are really the main two things when you’re playing cornerback,” Tandy said. “Yeah, you need to be athletic, but if your technique is good and your confidence is good, that helps a lot.”
Tandy says having the knowledge of a former quarterback is also helpful.
“It’s a huge bonus because I was thinking about what I would be looking for in a certain coverage, and then when I think about that I try not to show the quarterback what we’re doing,” he said.
“I feel like that is one of the best things that I do. The bowl game helped out because everything slowed down for me. I wasn’t as worried about guarding the receiver – I was more worried about what they were going to run in certain situations,” Tandy said.
Tandy got a first half education chasing North Carolina’s Hakeem Nicks around the field in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Nicks finished the game with 8 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns, but most of those yards came in the first half. If nothing else, what Tandy learned from that experience was that it probably can’t get any worse than that.
“We played against a first-round draft pick as a receiver so you feel like you can play against anybody in the nation,” he explained.
DB coach Dave Lockwood, a former defensive coordinator, used that experience as a valuable teaching tool for his young DBs.
“The main thing Coach Lockwood has tried to drill into our heads is our man-to-man technique,” Tandy said. “A lot of times we have our feet spread and we get into bad positions. He tells us to keep our feet close so when we do take a false step we can correct it quickly.”
This year, West Virginia plans to put more pressure on its corners by bringing more pressure on the quarterback. There is nothing Coach Bill Stewart hates to see more than an unconcerned quarterback standing tall in the pocket picking apart his defense.
“We are going to have to be in better shape because we are going to be asked to play a lot more man-to-man,” Tandy said. “You get left out on an island when you blitz. You are out there by yourself so your technique has to be good. You just want to listen to everything the coaches tell you and then try and perfect it.”
That means spending more time watching tape to not only learn more about themselves, but also their opponents.
“Earlier in the year I was looking at spring ball and our one-on-ones against the receivers. Now I’m watching more of the other teams,” Tandy said. “I’ve been watching Liberty trying to figure out what type of stuff they like to do in certain situations.”
He will find out for sure on Sept. 5.
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