NORMAN, Okla. -- Darwin Cook was named West Virginia's defensive player of the week for how he played against William & Mary, especially in a second-half shutout.
Fellow safety K.J. Dillon, in the estimation of Coach Dana Holgorsen, "had an OK day."
These are good developments for the Mountaineers for it would appear Cook is back and Dillon is coming for the defense. Those are trends that must continue curling upward if the defense that was so bad last season is to improve in 2013.
Their next test may stand as the most difficult of the entire season when WVU (1-0 plays at No. 16 Oklahoma (1-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday. The game at Memorial Stadium will be televised by Fox.
"We're excited," defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. "What an opportunity to showcase what we're all about. No one thinks we're any good anyway. What have we got to lose?"
Oklahoma is 82-5 at home since 1999, so WVU has plenty to gain. The Mountaineers can't wipe away what happened last season, but can aggressively edit the expectations for this season.
And whether the competitively private Patterson wants to admit it or not, much of that Saturday and throughout the season will fall on the shoulder pads of his safeties, most notably Dillon and Cook.
A year ago, the Mountaineers called a lot of quarters coverage, which had defensive backs patrolling assigned quadrants of the field. Patterson, who is new to his position of authority after serving as the co-coordinator last season, vowed in the spring to never play that way and to make use of his safeties.
Sophomore Karl Joseph was the team's best defensive player last season, but he has certain responsibilities as the last line of defense as the free safety. Cook is the defense's most opportune player - when healthy. Last year, he wasn't healthy for much of the season and a bad leg and later a bad attitude cost him playing time and productivity.
Dillon is the wild card, too green to completely trust right now, but too talented to disregard.
"We feel like he has ability to make plays, so we're getting him ready to be that nickel guy for us," Holgorsen said.
Dillon couldn't get on the field last season. He confessed he was overwhelmed by the transition to college football and the complexities of the former defensive scheme. Yet he's an athletic force, a state track and field champion in multiple events at his Florida high school, one the defense wants to spring on opponents from that nickel back spot that will be used a lot against Big 12 offenses, beginning with the one the Mountaineers will see first.