football Edit

West Virginia looks to man coverage as an answer

The West Virginia Mountaineers football program placed an emphasis on man coverage.
The West Virginia Mountaineers football program placed an emphasis on man coverage.

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West Virginia doesn’t have a choice; the defense must get better in man coverage.

The Mountaineers have relied on zone looks and in response teams have adjusted over the past two years to max protect. Leaving six or seven blockers to take on four or five rushers, which obviously isn’t favorable for the defense. That means that in order to combat that the program is going to have to be able to send more numbers and play man coverage in the backend.

That means placing a priority on those players that can play man coverage in the secondary and it’s something that the Mountaineers have been targeting in recruiting.

That has meant longer, more athletic cornerbacks and safeties that can run and bring a physical element to the table. That allows them to mix and match pieces in order to be more versatile with the pieces that they do have.

“Guys that can play man really well they have great length, great arm length and they have great speed,” secondary coach ShaDon Brown said. “And not just quick guys, guys that have what I call long speed. In a track meet you run fast for a long period of time. You want guys that run fast for a long period of time and to do that you’ve got to have a long gait.”

Finding those bodies that can play man coverage is essential to changing how the defense is called and that trickles down the safeties as well. Brown tries to find those players that can play bump and run at cornerback so if need be they can slide inside to safety or spear and do the same things there.

That was on display this past spring with Davis Mallinger moving to the spear spot to cover for losses there and Murray State cornerback transfer Marcis Floyd filling in at cat safety in his place.

Neither of the moves are necessarily permanent over the course of their careers but shows exactly what the coaches want to accomplish as they continue to mold the future of the secondary in Morgantown.

“Man coverage is the priority,” Brown said.

But it isn’t as easy as the physical makeup, as players also have to have a mentality in order to accurately handle that responsibility. That means confidence. The nature of man coverage lends itself to being beat at times but the more reps you do, the better you’ll become.

Brown likens it to trying to stay in front of LeBron James in basketball and preventing him from getting to the rim. The goal is to get him to shoot jump shots, but in the meantime that is going to be harder said than done and requires some trial and error which is why those techniques are a focus in every practice.

“He’s going to be confident and comfortable doing that,” Brown said. “We work that technique every day.”

West Virginia isn’t abandoning their zone principles by any means but understand that getting better in man looks is critical.

That’s part of what the focus has been in recruiting and crafting those positions.

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