WVU football: Cook, Garvin pay the price, will start against Marshall
MORGANTOWN - Safety Darwin Cook and linebacker Terence Garvin will start for No. 11 West Virginia Saturday against Marshall, the product of their practice performance for the Mountaineers this preseason.
The duo did quite of bit of work away from the team, too, as penance for their offseason shoplifting arrests.
"We handled that a long time ago," WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said. "We had lots of talks with them and lots of early morning workouts with them to see if they wanted to be here. They've done everything that they've been asked to do."
Cook and Garvin, roommates who were full-time starters last season, were arrested in May for trying to get away with Gatorade, pretzels and Doritos from a local Sheetz. On Tuesday, both spoke to reporters for the first time since.
Garvin called the arrest a "dumb accident" while Cooke likened it to a life experience.
"I learned a lot from it," the junior from Cleveland said. "I'm so glad to be here. I could not be here and my life could have changed quickly. I thank Coach Holgorsen for believing in me and trusting me."
Holgorsen is relying on both Cook and Garvin, a senior from Baltimore who has started more games than anyone else on defense. He said he wants both to take leadership roles for the team, and not just the defense, based on how they responded to their incidents.
"That's a good feeling because I've been working hard and trying to do the best I can do," said Garvin, who was a safety before being moved to the "Star" outside linebacker position this season, but who also missed spring practice after a knee injury ended his season and required surgery before the Orange Bowl.
"I always wanted to be a leader. That's something my mom and dad always told me to try and do and I'm going to do the best I can. Certain things happened and I'm trying to get everyone's trust and become a better leader every day."
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There was a time running backs coach Robert Gillespie wondered if Shawne Alston would ever play a snap for him. Alston was severely limited throughout Gillespie's first spring practice at WVU in 2011 because of a neck injury. The inactivity eventually made Alston doubt himself.
"I said, 'I'll show them in fall camp,' but then fall camp came around and I practiced like four downs," Alston said. "I thought, 'God, they're going to take my scholarship.'"
Alston instead became a red zone threat who rushed for 12 touchdowns last season and handled a career-high 20 carries as the starter in relief of injured Dustin Garrison in the Orange Bowl. The 6-foot, 235-pound native of Hampton, Va., is now WVU's unquestioned starter.
His story is not without a sad footnote, though, because he should have been competing against his friend Saturday. Marshall running back Tron Martinez, who is a year younger and attended to a rival Hampton high school, will instead miss the game recovering from offseason knee surgeries.
"He was definitely going to be the starter," said Alston, who keeps in touch with Martinez and his parents. "We've had this little rivalry since high school. I wish he was playing, but we're still going out on the field and trying to get the victory. When we get it, it's still going to be as sweet."
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Karl Joseph will start alongside Cook in the defensive backfield as the field safety. Joseph and receiver Jordan Thompson, who both enrolled in January, are the only true freshman starters.
Their roles have been known for a while now and Joseph's family has made plans to travel from their home in Orlando, Fla., to be at Mountaineer Field for the game.
WVU players get four tickets to home games. Joseph's parents will be in the stands, but he has work to do to accommodate his three younger brothers.
"Hopefully one of my teammates can give me a ticket," he said.
If not? "I can't tell you that," he said.
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Defensive line coach Erik Slaughter said he plans to use true freshmen Christian Brown, Korey Harris and Eric Kinsey against Marshall.
When or how often won't be decided until Saturday.
"It really depends on the tempo of the game," Slaughter said. "No. 1, how many snaps are we playing? That's definitely a game-to-game thing. If we're on the field a lot, obviously we need more players. If we're getting off the field and not seeing as many snaps, they won't play as much. It's really based on the style of play and the amount of plays we're defending."
Slaughter has tried to manufacture depth by developing flexibility in his players and making them learn multiple positions. That said, Slaughter said the starting lineup with Will Clarke at defensive end, Shaq Rowell at nose guard and Jorge Wright at defensive tackle is the team's best combination of players.
"We're trying to get guys that maybe can play a couple different positions, but like I've said since Day One, it's fluid," he said. "I want a bunch of guys in the room who want to be starters. Hopefully one day we get there. I don't know that we're there yet, but we're working toward getting to that point."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.