MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- His redshirt junior season will begin in the fall. Because of a year of prep school, he is already 22 years old.
Yet forgive West Virginia's Ishmael Banks if he feels a little like a freshman. Never mind he played in all 13 games in 2011 and he was a starter in four of the 11 games he played last season.
Banks, from Richmond, Va., by way of a year at Virginia's Hargrave Military Academy, has never been in the role he's aiming at during this round of spring football.
"I feel like if I wouldn't have went through what I went through, I wouldn't be working as hard as I am now and I wouldn't be as determined as I am now or as focused as I am now," Banks said.
Banks is one of the seven healthy cornerbacks working for the first time with new cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell.
There are no starters yet, not just because WVU has only had five of the 14 workouts before the April 20 Gold-Blue Game, but because Mitchell doesn't know what he'll do, let alone who he'll ask to do it.
The hardest thing, he said, is finding four cornerbacks who can play man-to-man, yet that's important. If he has cornerbacks who can play man-to-man, then there can be more bodies and more pressure up front and fewer bodies and fewer safety nets in the secondary.
If Mitchell has those man-to-man cornerbacks, he can assign one to the left side and one to the right side, which would let them play faster or move quickly on defense and keep pace with the up-tempo offenses.
Yet if he can only find a cornerback to play the more open field side and one to play the narrower boundary side, the Mountaineers will have to find the field and the boundary before every snap, which slows them down and puts them at a disadvantage.
Maybe Mitchell finds his cornerbacks are better off playing zone defense to complement other parts of the defense. It's all undetermined right now.
"It's all predicated on what your players can do," he said. "I think everything that you run schematically is based on your roster. You can have a philosophy for how you want to get things done, but you can only do as much as your talent can handle."
This is what makes Banks so interesting, so potentially valuable and perhaps so ready to benefit.
It's not that, at 6 feet tall and 190 pounds, Banks is noted for one skill or various skills, but that he's been trusted to play multiple positions.
"I'm a defensive back," he said. "I feel like I'm a cornerback, because that's what I've always done, but I can play safety, too. I can cover and a safety has got to be a little bigger. That's what a defensive back has to do."
That's what Banks has done. During his redshirt freshman season, Banks was a third-down and pass-situation cornerback who played around 100 snaps. The way those Mountaineers played pass defense often asked Banks to play like a cornerback, but back where a safety stood.