MORGANTOWN - First-year defensive coordinator Tony Gibson is admittedly a 'numbers guy.' Heading into his first spring as the Mountaineers' lead defensive coach, the former-Van High School player had two numbers in mind - 11 and 22.
"Well, obviously, you are going to put the best 11 out there," Gibson said following the annual Gold/Blue Scrimmage. "But, it's kind of hand in hand. Right now, you want to find your best 11 and your next best 11.
"I think we have a pretty good grasp on that."
Following his first 15 practices as West Virginia's coordinator on defense, Gibson's first depth chart has a first team unit made up of Dontrill Hyman (end), Kyle Rose (nose) and Christian Brown (end) up front with a linebacking corp made up of K.J. Dillon (Spur), Isaiah Bruce (Sam), Nick Kwiatkowski (Mike) and Brandon Golson (Will).
The secondary is made up of Ishmael Banks (left) and Daryl Worley (right) at the corners and Karl Joseph (boundary) and Jeremy Tyler (field) at the safeties.
Their primary backups following the spring will be Noble Nwachukwu (end), Darrien Howard (nose) and Eric Kinsey (end) on the line, Malik Greaves (Spur), Edward Muldrow (Sam), Al-Rasheed Benton (Mike) and Sean Walters (Will) at the linebackers and Terrell Chestnut (left corner), Keishawn Richardson (right corner), Jarrod Harper (boundary safety) and Ricky Rumph (field safety) in the secondary.
"So, we at the end have to go back and look at it and evaluate it," continued the coach. "And see where we are at.
"Get in the right stance, be in the right place, have your eyes looking at the right things. That was stressed from day one."
Others earning themselves a spot on the Mountaineers' depth chart include Devonte James, Brandon Jackson, Jon Lewis, Darren Arndt, Parkersburg's D.J. Carozza and James Gayeski on the defensive front, Marvin Gross, Isaac McDonald, Jewone Snow, Shaq Petteway, Dayron Wilson, Hodari Christian, Justin Arndt and Alex Brooks at linebacker and Brandon Napoleon, Nan Kyermeh, Shane Commodore and Carlton Nash in the secondary.
"Right now, there are going to be some freshmen that are going to be asked to step in right away at certain positions and certain roles," added Gibson. "So, we at the end, have to go back and look at it (spring practice) and evaluate it. See where we are at.
"It really helped us to go against our offense and the tempo they were going at. Especially the last few days. Our kids were able to line up and that is what we wanted to see."
Not only is the first-year coordinator tinkering around with the lineup, but also the way the unit lines up.
"I wanted to mess with you guys (the media) a little bit and put all 11 guys on their feet. That was just something we've been working with. They (the offense) were going empty and we were giving them some different things to look at. Trying to confuse the quarterbacks a little bit.
"You put guys on their feet for a couple reasons. Number one, their vision is better. And we want to get our guys on their feet so that they can get their hands up."
And when you play in a conference, like the Big 12 that ranks among the top offenses in the country year after year, those are things that could turn a program on the decline back into one that won three BCS bowls.
"We're not anywhere close to where we need to be. But I saw our kids make big strides from practice one to practice 15 the kids practiced hard and with a lot of energy.
"And we got a lot accomplished of what we needed to get accomplished. Now, it's go back, study the films and cut ups and get a plan together, so that in the summer time we are ready to go."