MORGANTOWN -- Karl Joseph looms like the next big thing on West Virginia's defense, a mean tackling machine with a gift for picking up instruction as quickly as he takes down opponents.
"You can pencil him in to play a good bit," Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "He is mature, he is physical and he is not scared. Sometimes it takes guys a couple of years before they are physically ready to play or mentally ready to play. Whatever it is, it was an easy adjustment for him."
Yet Joseph, a true freshman safety from Orlando, Fla., who has been on campus barely three months, doesn't know why he is a big deal.
He would be more disappointed if he wasn't already in position to play a lot at the bandit position.
"I knew I'd be able to compete," he said. "Football is my passion. I love to play and it drives me to get better. I like to watch film by myself sometimes to correct my mistakes so I already know what I did wrong before my coach tells me. You've got to be driven by it."
The 5 foot, 10 inch, 195-pound Edgewater High School product was regarded as one of the better players in Florida last year and a top 50 safety nationally. In his final two seasons he had 268 tackles (206 solo) and 12 sacks, six blocked kicks as a senior and six forced turnovers as a junior.
It was the nature of the plays, as opposed to the number of them, that drew the most attention. He was often described as a ferocious hitter.
"I'm very physical and that's what a lot of coaches liked about me, but I played in the box a lot in high school and was used on the field to make plays," he said. "I did more than just come downhill and hit somebody."
It's not easy convincing those just getting to know him. There are highlight clips online that show him running through opponents and playing in a way that might encourage other teams to stay away from him.
However, Joseph and his coaches didn't allow that. He played close to the line of scrimmage in high school, either as a linebacker or a safety given permission to freelance, and developed a reputation.
He says it's not entirely accurate.
"A lot of people don't know I was recruited as a cornerback a whole lot," Joseph said. "I've got pretty good coverage skills."