Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

August 17, 2011

Garvin stands out in WVU's inexperienced defense

MORGANTOWN — Everyone expects the West Virginia passing game to put up points, and lots of them this season.

There’s little doubt all those passes could be a nightmare for opposing defenses, especially the secondary.

Terrance Garvin should know. He tries to contain the Mountaineers from his strong safety position in practice every day of the week. He knows what lies ahead for the other team.

“They have got a lot of weapons on offense,” Garvin said. “A lot of people can come in and make plays and contribute. We see that every day, you see a new face and they just all can make plays really.”

Playing against that offense can only help a secondary that could experience growing pains this season, as the Mountaineers try to replace Robert Sands, Brandon Hogan and Sidney Glover — all of whom are now competing in NFL camps — with athletes that are talented, but have little experience.

Garvin, and cornerback Keith Tandy, have the most experience of anyone back there, and Garvin has gotten plenty of practice in preparing for his second season as a starter.

“I really worked hard this summer working on my footwork and trying to be able to work on pass coverages,” Garvin said. “With the offense we face every day, you really see where you are at in pass coverage because they throw the ball a lot.

“You are always in a situation where you are in pass defense.”

Only Garvin, who started 13 games in his career, all which came last season, and Tandy, who has started 27 of his 32 games for the Mountaineers, have started in at least 10 games for West Virginia.

Eain Smith (9) and Pat Miller (2) are the only other West Virginia defensive backs that have started at all in the backfield.

“Tandy is going to be Tandy, I am going to try to do me, Darwin Cook, he is really good actually, he is fast,” Garvin said. “Eain is back there, he knows a lot, he’s been around for five years now and he really knows the defense and this is his chance to really start this year.

“Pat Miller has really been stepping up and making plays, there are a lot of key reserves that are going to have to contribute and make plays the best they can.”

Among those are Cook, Brodrick Jenkins, Brantwon Bowser, Lawrence Smith, Mike Dorsey and Travis Bell, all of whom have at least 13 games of playing experience, but have never started at the collegiate level.

There are seven others listed on the early depth chart with no game experience, including true freshmen Avery Williams and Vance Roberts.

“They are doing good, they are doing real good actually, they are picking stuff up pretty fast,” Garvin said. “Everybody is just learning and we are just trying to get better every day really.

“I feel like we are working hard just trying to learn the defense and get better with it.”

Garvin, who led the Mountaineers in tackles last season with 76, was part of a stingy, veteran defense that never allowed more than 23 points in a game last season. That was done by following their assignments laid out by defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and his staff.

“Our defense is a real disciplined defense so you can’t try to do too much or you will mess up the whole thing,” Garvin said. “It is not really where you try to do too much, you try to be perfect and show the younger people what exactly to do.  

“That is hard to do myself, I am never perfect, none of us is ever perfect.”

He was one of the unproven ones when last season began, but he did just fine, taking advantage of the veteran leadership to improve as the year progressed.

“I asked tons of questions of Rob and Sid last year, I was just always asking. ‘What should I do here, what would you do there,” Garvin said. “It is just crazy, I just remember me asking them last year and now I have got people asking me.”

Seven of the starters on that unit are gone. It’s time for this year’s defense to step up and produce.

“It is really just different people, we are younger, we are a different dimension, a different identity, we’re pretty fast, but we have to make our identity for ourselves,” Garvin said. “Last year everybody kind of knew who Rob was and you knew who Hogan was, but we have to make names for ourselves with this defense.”

Garvin, a junior from Baltimore, was the new guy last season, having made 10 tackles in 10 games as a freshman in 2009. He was thrust into a starter’s role last year, and understands how different it is this season for those youngsters trying to earn their own role.

“I know exactly how they feel, this time last year I was the one that was asking Rob and Sidney, ‘What should I do here and what should I do there’,” Garvin said. “Now a lot of them, they are new and they are asking people like Tandy and me, ‘What should I do here and what should I do there..”

He listened well, not only leading the team in tackles, including 41 solo stops, but also had 4 1/2 tackles for loss, one sack, four pass break-ups, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.

“Last year I did pretty good in the running game and taking on the fullbacks, but I could have done a lot better,” said the soft-spoken 6-foot-3, 216-pound Garvin. “When I watch film now, I will be like ‘Why did I do that, I shouldn’t have done that, that was dumb’.

“Mentally I have learned a lot more, I understand the defense a lot better than I did last year, just trying to be around the ball and trying to make plays. I understand exactly what I need to do in certain situations, last year I didn’t understand exactly why I was there, I just had to be there.”

For all of West Virginia’s success last season on defense, the Mountaineers didn’t force a lot of turnovers. They had just 12 interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries (and 16 forced fumbles) in a 9-4 season that including a co-Big East title and a loss to N.C. State in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Turnovers have been a focus of the defense in the preseason. It’s so important that the number of forced turnovers are being recorded at practice for all to see.

“They have got a board this year and they are really specifying trying to strip the ball and getting turnovers,” Garvin said. “That is a key thing for a defense is the turnovers, we really want to try and force turnovers this year the best we can...

“Effort is a big thing, our coach really wants everybody running to the ball and just trying to get to the ball. That is a big thing, they really specify on effort and stripping the ball and turnovers, they want turnovers.”

Getting those turnovers isn’t easy, but Garvin said the Mountaineers are working on different ways to make them happen.

“Just being in the right place, if you get your hand on the ball catching the ball, intercepting it, trying to strip the ball, that is big, putting your hat on the ball when you tackle,” said Garvin, whose Mountaineers open the season by hosting Marshall on Sept. 4. “There are different ways of getting the ball out, however you can get the ball out really.

“I want to force as many turnovers as I can really, I just want to be around the ball and make plays really, no specific numbers, but just making plays.”

While Garvin is still learning himself, he encourages the others to ask him for advice, much like he got last year in his first chance to start.

“I am trying to be (a leader), I am working hard every day just trying to do things totally, I am learning how to lead myself,” Garvin said. “At first it was really tough, I wasn’t really embracing the whole being a leader thing, but now I really see I have to try and be a leader.

“If somebody asks me a question I always try to answer it the best I can...If I know what to do I tell them what I would do.”

Despite leading the Mountaineers in tackles last season, Garvin was often overshadowed by the talent that was in the secondary with him. Perhaps, this season, will be his chance to shine.

Not that he’s all that concerned about it.

“I am not really worried about what people think about me outside,” Garvin said. “It is always what my coaches think about me, what my players think about me, that is really what I worry about and think about.

“I feel like as long as I can do my job and make plays, the notification will come.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

 at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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