TANDY'S A DANDY
If you’ve followed college football for a while, you begin to learn that one game early in player’s career doesn’t necessary define that player. Sure, it’s difficult to watch sometimes, like the time cornerback Keith Tandy spent the entire first half chasing Hakim Nicks up and down the field in the 2008 Meineke Car Care Bowl.
But something happened during that game – he got better. Tandy eventually made a play and realized, hey, I might be able to do this. And soon after that, he was able to pull himself out of the toaster.
“I remember I made a tackle in the backfield one time and (linebacker J.T. Thomas) came over and slapped me on the head, congratulating me and I was like, ‘Dang, I really can do this.’ That’s when it started to change,” Tandy recalled.
It sure has.
Today, Tandy is considered one of the better cover corners in the country, picking off a Big East-best six passes last year as a junior and earning second team All-America honors by CNNSI.com and third team honors by Rivals.com.
We thought the reason Tandy got all those gaudy numbers in 2010 was because teams were picking on him and avoiding senior Brandon Hogan’s side of the field. Secondary coach Dave Lockwood said last week it was actually the other way around – teams were throwing more to Hogan’s side because just about every time they threw at No. 8 he wound up with the football.
Tandy admits he had no clue which side of the field teams were spending more time throwing to.
“I’m not really sure,” he shrugged. “Last year I was on a great defense and guys were just flying around and I ended up being in the right place a couple of times and my confidence just started building from there.”
But Tandy is a pretty smart guy and he realized right away that it might be a good idea to absorb as much information as he could, starting with Hogan on the other side of the field.
“He was real big for me because from day one when he came over he had the right mindset for a cornerback and he showed me a different way to play the game,” Tandy said. “Every time he got on the field he played lights out. No matter how he felt or how bad he hurt he was always going 100 percent.”
What Hogan brought to the secondary was a willingness to whack receivers in the ear hole whenever they came near him - something Tandy knew could be really beneficial to him as a player because receivers typically don’t like getting whacked in the ear hole.
“When he first came out there he was hitting everybody that came across,” Tandy explained. “If you can hit somebody you need to take that chance because linemen are always running into you and trying to get kill shots on you, so you want to take a chance when you get one.”
Tandy got his big shot last year against Cincinnati’s D.J. Woods on a bubble screen that nearly put the Bearcat receiver underground. That big lick set the tone for the game, a 27-point Mountaineer victory.
That’s the play everybody still talks about around Morgantown, but Tandy has another one that sticks out more clearly in his mind. It happened in the 2009 Pitt game during his sophomore year, and it came as a result of his hard work and preparation.
Tandy had studied a formation Pitt liked to use and knew from watching tape that the Panthers always threw the same pass play in this particular alignment. All week he prepared for it and when they finally came out in that set he was able to jump it for an interception.
“I watched that play so many times on film and I said when they throw that ball I am going to pick it off and it actually happened in the game,” Tandy said. “I pretty much knew it was going to come.”
Preparation is the secret to Tandy’s success. He’s put in the time and effort and it’s really beginning to pay off. It’s like when you look at that really good looking person walking down the street who is physically fit and just exudes confidence (there are a whole bunch of them walking around Morgantown right now). It didn’t just happen. They look that way for a reason.
Keith has had some conversations with former Mountaineer All-American and NFL corner Aaron Beasley and Tandy says ‘Bease’ frequently challenges him to break all of his records.
“He would always tell me he wasn’t the fastest guy out there but he made because of watching film and his instincts,” Tandy said.
Lockwood, a former college corner, has also been a big help. When Tandy was struggling as a young player, Lockwood was there to boost his confidence and build him up. He could see the potential was there, plus, Keith had a willingness to work hard, listen and learn. It’s really easy for coaches to build up players who are not knuckleheads.
Tandy has never forgotten that.
“Lock is real key for where I am at right now,” Tandy said. “He is always in there watching film and coming up with little things to tell me - tips on what the receiver likes to do in certain situations. He’s the main reason I am the player I am today.
“He’s going to coach you hard and when you mess up he’s going to let you know, and when you do something great he’s going to be the first one to pat you on the back and congratulate you,” Tandy said.
You can bet on Lockwood patting Tandy on the back a lot this year. He’s earned it.
Keith Tandy, West Virginia University Mountaineers, WVU, NCAA college football
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