When asked about which cornerbacks will play this Saturday against Oklahoma State, West Virginia co-defensive coordinator Jahmile Addae mentioned three players, junior Dreshun Miller and Jackie Matthews and sophomore Nicktroy Fortune.
Missing from Addae’s list was true freshman Daryl Porter Jr., who is listed as the primary backup to Fortune on WVU’s depth chart this week. When asked about Porter, Addae said his time is coming sooner rather than later.
“We’re excited about him for the near future, he’ll be a guy that you may possibly see [Saturday] as well,” Addae said of Porter. “He’s got to have a great week of preparation. He obviously knows that and he’s worked his ass off to get it done.”
If Porter does play on Saturday it will not be out of desperation. WVU has other cornerbacks who are more than capable. Rather, it will be because Porter has been impressing his coaches ever since he got to Morgantown this summer.
“I do feel he’s come along probably a lot faster than most freshman cornerbacks I’ve had. He’s really a sharp kid, very cerebral, never too high, never too low and somewhat of a sponge in a sense,” Addae explained. “In camp, he was actually probably our top interception-getter, I think he led the team in terms of takeaways. He showed the early ability to go get the ball when it’s in the air, to be able to track it and have natural ball skills.”
What is it about Porter that has put him on the fast track to early playing time? According to his high school coach, it is a combination of his high football IQ, pedigree and lineage.
“If you knew the kid, you would know what kind of player and what kind of mentality he has,” American Heritage head coach Patrick Surtain told WVSN. “He’s a really smart player so learning the playbook was probably fairly easy for him. Once you know what you’re doing, it allows you to play fast and not think so much. He’s always been a playmaker, he just makes plays, he’s been doing that from day one.”
Surtain and the American Heritage coaching staff knows a thing or two about good defensive backs. Surtain himself played cornerback in the NFL for 10 years. Also on Surtain’s coaching staff are former NFL defensive back Earl Little and Porter’s father, Daryl Porter Sr., who played six years in the NFL.
“I think the thing that’s helped him a lot is we run a lot of different schemes at our high school,” Surtain said. “His father is actually our defensive coordinator and we run a bunch of schemes that you would see at the college level so I think he’s been able to adjust.”
It is not just the coaches at American Heritage who are great defensive backs. In the last four years, American Heritage has produced Marco Wilson, a three-year starter at Florida, Tyson Campbell, a two-year starter at Georgia, and Surtain’s own son, Partick Surtain II, an All-American honorable mention at Alabama last season.
“We call ourselves ‘DB High’ because we put some DBs at the highest level,” Surtain said. “Daryl falls right in line with them.”
Surtain said they are able to produce so much talent because of what they put their defensive backs through.
“We give those guys many different scenarios, many different coverages that they’re going to run,” Surtain said. “So some of the route combinations that [Porter is] seeing in college we probably ran in high school. He knows the ins and outs of every coverage and knows the weakness of every coverage so I think that allows him to take some chances from time to time and he has terrific ball skills and terrific hands to make some big plays.”
Porter committed to WVU last December, although he missed out on early enrollment in the spring and having a traditional training camp due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He played in WVU’s season-opener against Eastern Kentucky but failed to record any statistics. Surtain said he expects that Porter will play a lot in his first season.
“His football IQ is off the charts,” Surtain said. “The biggest thing that keeps true freshmen from playing is learning the playbook and he knows what he’s doing.”
West Virginia is set to play Oklahoma State in both teams’ Big 12 opener at 3:30 p.m. in Stillwater, Oklahoma this Saturday. The game will be broadcast on ABC.