WVU football: Secondary takes another hit
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The West Virginia University secondary has allowed an average of 452.7 yards per game in three Big 12 contests.
It can't get worse, right?
Well, the 17th-ranked Mountaineers (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) will be without their top cornerback, Brodrick Jenkins, for this Saturday's home game (7 p.m., WVAH) against No. 4 Kansas State (6-0, 3-0).
The 5-foot-10, 183-pound junior has a cartilage tear in a knee and will be sidelined indefinitely.
"You lose your best corner and move on and put the next guy in," said Joe DeForest, WVU's first-year defensive coordinator.
True freshmen Ricky Rumph and Nana Kyrehmeh are in the mix to start opposite senior Pat Miller on national television Saturday night. The options are few and shifting a player from another position - like free safety Ishmael Banks - thins the depth elsewhere.
"Obviously guys aren't excited being without Brodrick for a while, but they are excited about playing time," cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts said. "We'll see who emerged by the end of the week and they'll be playing on Saturday.
"It's a wide-open race."
Bumps and bruises and other physical maladies are testing West Virginia's depth at the mid-point of the regular season schedule.
Jenkins won't play, and offensive lineman Jeff Braun and wide receiver Stedman Bailey are considered day-to-day. Running back Shawne Alston has been listed as such for one month, but there are a couple capable proven commodities in the backfield.
Bailey, the nation's leader in touchdown receptions (14), may have an uncertain status, but it is certain that second-year Coach Dana Holgorsen will put true freshman Travares Copeland in the lineup against Kansas State.
The 5-foot-10, 178-pounder said he will start at the H receiver position, a spot most often occupied by fellow rookie Jordan Thompson.
Copeland is capable of playing outside, as is true freshman Devonte Robinson (6-2, 184), who hasn't yet had his redshirt torched.
That could change Saturday.
There have been 22 first-time players see game action this season, including 11 true freshmen.
Those numbers could swell this weekend.
"(Copeland will) start this week, so you guys can go ahead and write that one down," Holgorsen said.
"He's been getting better and better every week. We got him in the game (against Texas Tech) because we didn't like what we were looking at, so we made the decision to play him and put him in.
"Almost made the decision to put Robinson in. Probably wish I would have."
Copeland had his redshirt pulled in last Saturday's 49-14 loss at Texas Tech. Copeland, a high school quarterback, had one reception for 5 yards after watching patiently the first five games of the season.
If Bailey starts, he'll likely join Copeland on the left side.
Of course, there are a few practices between now and then that could sway Holgorsen before game time.
"I think that motivation is indicative of playing time," he said. "If you like your current situation you better do what you go to do to keep that current situation or that situation is going to change."
Holgorsen hasn't been shy about pushing freshmen - redshirt or true - into the limelight. Results, however, have been mixed.
Kansas State's defense has eight seniors and three juniors on the first team, while WVU's top two in total tackles - Isaiah Bruce and Karl Joseph - are freshmen.
Starting defensive end Will Clarke (knee) didn't dress against Texas Tech, and freshmen Kyle Rose, Eric Kinsey and Christian Brown combined to fill the avoid.
"Don't know how to play," Holgorsen said succinctly. "They're not ready to be difference-makers."
The initial depth chart may be carved by performance, but as injuries mount, necessity and desperation has its influence.
"Someone is going to get challenged this week," DeForest said of his dicey cornerback situation.
"It's a work in progress. You move one guy to one spot and weaken another spot and you have to plug a guy into that spot that's maybe not as good as the other guy. You've got to try and find the best 11 and make it work. Depth's a concern, there's no question."
Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at email@example.com or 304-348-7949.