by Jim Buzzerd
Football practice began on the campus of West Virginia University last Friday, August 3 and there are some items of interest to mention here. Of course head coach Dana Holgorsen’s policy that extremely limits media access to practices is still in place, so what access the media has is basically limited to drills. One item that did not take long to make it out of camp is the transfer of linebacker VanDarius Cowan into the program.
This is an interesting development on multiple fronts. I’m not sure what was the biggest takeaway from the initial report. Is it that Cowan is 6-4, 235 and was rated the 67th best recruit nationally coming out of high school in the 2017 class? Or is it that Cowan was dismissed from his high school team in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, then recently dismissed by Nick Saban at Alabama after being charged with a misdemeanor following a bar fight?
Both are eye-popping facts and so far I haven’t been able to locate any comments from Holgorsen, specifically the red flags due to Cowan being dismissed from two football teams. Holgorsen has proven to show little tolerance for troublemakers in his tenure at WVU, making this situation one to keep an eye on. From a talent perspective, taking Cowan is a no-brainer. His freakish size and athleticism is unique to the middle linebacker position where he is projected to play at WVU. Cowan will have to sit out the 2018 season and will have three years to play three seasons.
While we wait a year to watch the Cowan story, there are some newcomers to the program who should provide help to the defense this fall. One is Charlie Benton, recruited from Butler CC in Kansas. Benton was a safety at Butler, but played well enough at strong side linebacker in the spring to alleviate some of the concerns due to Quondarius Qualls and Brendan Ferns being out with injuries for at least part of the season.
Another JUCO addition is cornerback Josh Norwood from Northwest Mississippi CC. At 5-10, 175 Norwood would seem small for a safety, but it appears at this early stage corner will be his primary position, but he will likely be used at multiple positions in the defensive backfield.
A huge addition to the defense is USC graduate transfer Kenny Bigelow. The 6-3, 300 nose guard is expected to join Darius Stills and Brenon Thrift in a three-man rotation at the position. The nose position in the WVU defense isn’t schemed to produce tackles and sacks, but to disrupt the opposing offensive line. Bigelow’s size and experience make him a prime candidate to do that.
Another graduate transfer is defensive tackle Jabril Robinson from Clemson. The 6-2, 270 Leland, North Carolina product played 206 snaps in 2017, compiling 19 tackles, and was named Co-Defensive Player of the Game in Clemson’s 24-10 victory over Georgia Tech. These additions would seem to give the Mountaineers some much needed help on the defensive side of the ball.