MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The words Dana Holgorsen used were shocking. Not because the West Virginia coach long synonymous with offense was speaking about defense, but because he is the West Virginia coach.
And for two seasons, West Virginia has had one of the very worst pass defenses both available and imaginable.
Yet there those words were, spiraling out of Holgorsen's mouth on film, on tape, on notepads, on an Internet stream.
"We'll be able to use them in the secondary to continue to develop what we think will be one of the better secondaries in college football," he said.
See also: West Virginia University signees
Holgorsen was obviously talking about the new players. True, he was holding court Wednesday for his third signing day as head coach and fourth since arriving at WVU in December 2010. Additions to the roster were the topic of the day. But beyond that, the players who comprised the defensive backfield in the past two years compromised it in a way that left the 2012 team ranking No. 118 out of 120 teams in pass defense in 2012 and No. 106 out of 123 teams this past season.
The combined record? Three games under .500 at 11-14.
But that can become part of the magic on national signing day. A bad thing can be sold as a good thing, and whether by age or by injury, WVU wasn't very good last year. Or the year before. Prospective players can me made to see that as an opportunity.
"We can turn on the TCU film and show them the last two drives of the game where we have seven true freshmen on the field and I think three or four of them are in the secondary," safeties coach Tony Gibson said. "Our deal is we're going to play the best guy."
A smart college coach is going to tell an impressionable high school or junior college player that the situation he's about to enter may let him become one of those best guys. The Mountaineers have at least put the pieces in place by signing defensive backs DaeJuan Funderburk, Keishawn Richardson, Dravon Henry and Jaylon Myers.
"Those four kids are as good in a class at one time that I've ever been a part of," Gibson said. "Usually you're going to get one that's maybe ready to play and you've got to develop the rest and maybe redshirt them and they end up being pretty good. But to be ready to step in form Day One and impact the football team, I think all four kids can do that."
The Mountaineers need it dearly. A little more than a month away from the start of spring practice, there's still debate about where returning players will go. Is Daryl Worley a free safety or a cornerback? Is Travis Bell a cornerback or a safety? Is Jeremy Tyler a free safety or a bandit? Is Karl Joseph a safety or the nickel back? A lot of that will be decided in the spring, when Richardson, who enrolled in January, will join them, but more decisions will be made after the others arrive in the summer.