MORGANTOWN-When the dust settled on WVU's 4-8 season last fall fans began debating where to place the lion's share of the blame for the Mountaineers' first losing mark since 2001.
As enemic as the offense performed-ranking No. 7 in the Big 12 in scoring (26.3 ppg), No. 5 in total yards (410.8 ypg), No. 7 in rushing (148.7) and No. 4 in passing (262.1)-the defensive unit continued its slide down the conference rankings finishing next to last in scoring (33.3 ppg) and total yards (455.0 ypg), No. 8 in rushing (191.7) and dead last in passing (263.3).
Numbers that have been embedded in the minds of first year defensive coordinator Tony Gibson and his staff and into the minds of players like K.J. Dillon.
"We just didn't get the job done last year," Dillon said. "It wasn't from a lack of effort. All of us wanted to win just as badly as any other player on any other team. We just couldn't seem to come up with the big stop or the big turnover that usually turns a game around."
That experience, however, has spurred Dillon and his defensive mates to work doubly hard this offseason to make sure a repeat performance doesn't occur in 2014.
"We could have a very, very special secondary this year," continued the junior. "Me and Karl (Joseph) tried to emerge as leaders in the secondary coming out of spring ball. We just have so much to prove as a team. We feel like we just have so much to prove to this city (Morgantown) and this state."
Words echoed by the Florida native's newest coordinator.
"Probably our secondary," Gibson said following spring drills. "I thought (Daryl) Worley, Karl Joseph and K.J. (Dillon) really stepped it up and had good springs. Those guys are ahead of where they were a year ago."
They will need to be to compete with a Big 12 Conference slate of games that includes quarterbacks Byrce Petty of Baylor, Davis Webb of Texas Tech, KSU's Jake Waters, and Oklahoma's Trevor Knight.
"We know who they are and we know what they can bring. But, we're not worried about them right now. We're worried about ourselves. We're making sure that we do better than we did last year."
A simplified system should help.
"It's much simplier because I know that I've got to do my job. And, I know what my job is. So, now it just comes down to me doing it. Because, I know what to do."
But will that be enough?
"For me, it's really that simple," added Dillon. "There were so many times last season when we had players in a position to make plays and, for whatever reason, they didn't make them. Me included.
"It takes all 11 of us reading our keys and communicating what we see. If we have someone not doing that then that's when we have breakdowns and give up big plays. So, that's where me and Karl have to become better leaders and make sure that everyone stays on the same page.
"We don't need heroes and we don't need playmakers. We need players doing their jobs and that will lead to them making plays."
And, hopefully, change a 4-win team into a bowl contender.