MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- When West Virginia's defense jogs onto the field for the first time in the 2013 season Saturday, it's likely that two defensive backs will be 5-foot-10 and 5-11 and two others will be 6-0 and 6-1.
That's not unusual.
Yet the Mountaineers are switching things, at least relative to their recent past, and have the smaller players at safety and the taller ones at cornerback.
Sophomore Karl Joseph, who last year led the team in tackles as a true freshman, is the shortest of the group, and senior Darwin Cook, almost unquestionably the most opportune player on defense when healthy, stands an inch taller to Joseph's side.
WVU is unveiling a fleet of tall cornerbacks for the season opener against William & Mary, beginning with juniors Travis Bell and smaller-by-an-inch Ishmael Banks.
Kickoff is noon on Fox Sports 1.
"You're trying to minimize the distance between you and the next offender," cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell said. "The taller, longer, rangier kids who have the same skill set as the smaller kids, which is great athletic ability, good lateral quickness, good top-end speed, why not have them at cornerback?"
Bell is a converted safety who practiced once at cornerback in the spring before playing there in the Gold-Blue game and finding a permanent home.
Banks has played some safety in his career, but has surged since he was planted at cornerback early last season.
Daryl Worley wasn't recruited as a cornerback, either. The true freshman, who is 6-2 and 195 pounds, played linebacker and safety in high school, but was slotted at cornerback upon arriving at WVU. He backs up Banks.
He is WVU's new way of thinking in the secondary, a year after many Big 12 teams had their receivers use height and reach to outplay cornerbacks for balls while the cornerbacks weren't strong or long enough to get in the way and stay in the way of certain routes and passes.
It's WVU's belief that longer defensive backs can use their presence to discourage some throws and defend many others. Bigger bodies are harder to move off the line of scrimmage or during a route.
"I think nowadays you've got to get corners who are physical, long and rangy and can defend these 6-3, 6-4 receivers day in and day out, because that's the nature of the beast now," defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. "You've got to get as many kids in the program who are long, rangy, can make plays in space and can get the receiver on the ground."
Baylor's Terrance Williams obliterated WVU's secondary last season with 17 receptions for 317 yards and two touchdowns. He was 6-2 and 205 pounds. Kansas State' 6-1, 235-pound Chris Harper caught six passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. Oklahoma's 6-3, 210-pound Justin Brown caught six passes for 112 yards. TCU's 6-0, 200-pound Josh Boyce caught six passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns.