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2019 Position Preview: Cornerbacks



With the evolution and ubiquity of the run-pass option out of the spread, life in the Big 12 Conference as a defensive back is quite the challenge. That’s not even taking into account having to face some of the best offensive talent and play callers in the country.

Statistics don’t always tell the whole story, and that couldn’t be more true for the 2018 West Virginia football team’s secondary. The numbers say the group was as bad as it was good last season, and the eye test, especially on the safeties, validates them. Communication was also poor among those who were dropping back in coverage. The Old Gold and Blue finished 106 out of 129 teams in the country last season in pass defense, meaning the secondary has much more to be desired in 2019, especially when one considers the Mountaineers were eighth in the country in tackles for loss per game with eight.

On the other hand, the Mountaineers were tied for 20th in the country in turnovers gained, and the secondary had nine interceptions to its credit. The Mountaineers were 37th in the country in third down defense. There were good times and there were bad times. Unfortunately, the bad times came at the most important times—at Oklahoma State and versus Oklahoma.

Maybe we need different criteria to judge the secondary than just passing yards allowed. In today’s world of college and even professional football, it’s inevitable that lots of yards and points are going to get racked up. More important than yards allowed is turnovers forced, negative plays created, third down stops made and red zone chances ending in field goals.

Now no position group has been more influx since the 2018 season ended for the West Virginia Mountaineers than the cornerbacks. Three cornerbacks transferred, namely former four star high school prospect Derrek Pitts, who received playing time both at safety and corner in two seasons in Morgantown. Two others, Jake Long and Sean Mahone, were moved to safety, which is arguably the defense’s biggest question mark with all three positions needing replacements.

Despite all of the changes, West Virginia retained three redshirt seniors, who all received major playing time in 2018. These three veterans will be the first men up to slow down the many talented receivers that line up outside for the Mountaineers’ Big 12 opponents in 2019. Let’s break them down:

Keith Washington, 6’1” 180 RS-Sr.

Image result for keith washington wvu

Photo credit: Blue Gold Sports

Every few years, it seems like West Virginia develops a star cornerback on its roster. From Adam “Pacman” Jones to Keith Tandy to Daryl Worley and to Rasul Douglas, Washington is next in line to be the Mountaineers’ top option as the lockdown corner. Washington burst onto the scene last year when he recorded his first career interception and returned it 51 yards for the game-sealing touchdown at Texas Tech. He continued to improve in the season’s second half, picking off another pass against Baylor and putting together great games against TCU and Oklahoma State. Washington’s ball skills are the best on the team and among the best in the Big-12. That’s evident from his pass breakup and interception totals. But, what makes the former Michigan Wolverine exciting can also be a weakness. He’s a gambler and sometimes got beat last year by being too aggressive. Staying aggressive, while not allowing the big play will be vital for Washington’s success this year. If he also becomes a better run stopper too, we’ll see him on Sundays.

Dreshun Miller, 6’1” 190 Jr.

Image result for dreshun miller wvu

Photo credit: WVU Athletics Communications

Miller is a highly talented recruit coming from the junior college ranks that was originally committed to LSU before flipping to the Mountaineers to Dana Holgorsen’s staff. Prior to Neal Brown being hired, Miller was patient and wanted to see who the coach was going to be and never really considered leaving WVU. He told DubVNation back in the winter, “I committed to a school and an entire state, not just a coaching staff.”

With Bailey and Washington having the most experience, expect Miller to be groomed into the rotation as the season progresses. He will see a ton of playing time being the third corner.

Hakeem Bailey, 6’ 190 RS-Sr.

Image result for hakeem bailey wvu

Photo credit: Blue Gold Sports

Fans didn’t see a ton of Bailey last year, which backs up the claim that he only marginally improved in 2018 from 2017. He still had some solid games, including an eight tackle performance against Tennessee and a seven tackle performance at Texas. He recorded an interception against Kansas and forced a fumble versus Baylor. Expect Bailey to rotate in with Washington and Norwood. He provides quality depth and we may even see him play more early on in the season, while the safeties get worked out.

The rest: Malachi Ruffin 5’9” 180 RS-Fr., Devan Wade 5’9” 180 RS-Sr., Alonzo Addae 5’11” 180 RS-Jr., Nicktroy Fortune 6’ 190 Fr., Tae Mayo 5’10” 160 Fr., Naim Muhammad 5’10” 205 Fr., Tacorey Turner, 6’2” 185 Fr.

The remaining seven corners on the roster all haven’t taken a snap in an official game for the Mountaineers. New Hampshire transfer Alonzo Addae will redshirt this season to help ease the loss of Washington and Bailey in 2020. Freshman Nicktroy Fortune was one of the first members of the 2019 recruiting class and Mayo was a Neal Brown signee, so they could possibly see some time, but more likely will redshirt.

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