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Asti: WVU Defense Relying on Garnett Hollis to be Next Beanie Bishop

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WVU Football DB Garnett Hollis
Ed Thompson / WVSN

When Beanie Bishop arrived in Morgantown last year, he was exactly what the WVU defense needed. Bishop instantly provided the Mountaineers with an experienced ball-hawk who could get into the head of the opposing quarterback. Bishops’s success as a Mountaineer earned him consensus All-American honors and now a shot at an NFL career with the Steelers.

While a player elevating their stock based on one lone season in West Virginia is a great feather in the caps of Neal Brown and his coaching staff. Brown has even been open about using Bishop’s 2023 season as a recruiting tool when trying to lure transfers. However, the current issue for the 2024 Mountaineers is how can they replace the loss of Bishop moving forward and avoid the secondary becoming a weakness again?

Obviously, Aubrey Burks sticking around is a saving grace of sorts and he also serves as the leader for the group, but he’s a safety. What WVU needs to find is a cornerback who can fill the void left by Bishop.

The most likely candidate is a player trying to follow Bishop’s path. Much like Bishop, Garnett Hollis transferred from the Big Ten to join the Mountaineers in the Big 12. Hollis made the jump from Northwestern along with teammate Jaheem Joseph in March. And while some could argue Joseph also has the opportunity to step up as well, Hollis is the one with the experience edge as a top corner and who most around the WVU program are banking on being the next Bishop.

“Hollis was pretty unquestionably the Wildcats’ CB1 this year. Granted, the team didn’t play against a ton of star receivers, but he was tasked with a good amount on the perimeter — both in the pass and run,” Bradley Lackey, who covered Northwestern for SB Nation, described Hollis to WV Sports Now at the time.

After making four starts and appearing in eight games as a junior in 2022, Hollis played in all 13 games for the Wildcats in 2023 and recorded an interception and three pass deflections. He also made 49 total tackles, including 3.5 for a loss.

What Can WVU Expect from Pair of Northwestern Transfer Defensive Backs?

But just because Bishop used WVU to achieve his goals, that doesn’t mean every Big Ten transfer corner is guaranteed greatness as well. So based on who Hollis has been and what WVU needs him to be, is it reasonable to have such high expectations for him with West Virginia?

Success in the Big Ten does not necessarily mean success in the Big 12. As Locker brought up, the style of play is just different, making what players experience from opponents completely different as well. And something that can’t be ignored, being a top player on Northwestern, a program mostly out of the spotlight, is different than stepping up like Bishop did as a Mountaineer. The history and pressure that comes with playing at WVU and representing West Virginia is going to be another level from what Hollis and Joseph dealt with as Wildcats.

WVU Football DB Garnett Hollis

Ed Thompson / WVSN

WVU Football DB Garnett Hollis

Ed Thompson / WVSN

With all of that said, Hollis does have the makeup of a Bishop-like player, granted there are also things about Hollis’ game that needs cleaned up.

“Hollis is also a strong physical presence at 6-foot-2 and wasn’t targeted much (just 38 times in 13 games), but was pretty stout. The one thing Hollis definitely needs to clean up is staying in phase, because he had six penalties last year, including some backbreaking PIs. Hollis is also a strong physical presence at 6-foot-2 and wasn’t targeted much (just 38 times in 13 games), but was pretty stout. The one thing Hollis definitely needs to clean up is staying in phase, because he had six penalties last year, including some backbreaking PIs,” said Locker.

It’s obviously unreasonable to expect every transfer defensive back, even the ones coming from another major conference, to mirror the success of Bishop. But the fact Bishop was able to reach a new level as a Mountaineer is a nice feather in the cap for the coaches and shows what can be possible. West Virginia now hopes history repeats itself with the latest additions, most likely Hollis.

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