Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

WVU's Douglas One of Big 12's Best on Defense

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

WVU's Douglas One of Big 12's Best on Defense

Article excerpt

MORGANTOWN - Two of the many players who can use the final weeks of the season to pass Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and win the Heisman Trophy play in the Big 12. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is on pace to set the NCAA record for passer efficiency. Teammate Dede Westbrook is No. 2 nationally in receiving yards per game and touchdowns.

Inside the same conference, you'll find seven of the top 30 offenses in yards per game, five of the top 30 in passing yards per game and four of the top 30 in points per game. The Big 12 also has the national leader in rushing yards per game and the leader and three of the top 10 in passing yards per game.

Offense is still the king, but the Big 12 nevertheless hands out an award for defensive player of the year, which is sort of like winning salutatorian with a 4.5 GPA. The Big 12 has honored 27 players since debuting in 1996. Nine have been defensive linemen, including the co-winners last year, and 12 have been linebackers.

That means six were defensive backs. Four were cornerbacks, which does and does not make sense given the legacy of the league.

"Probably because of the stats, linebackers and pass rushers get it, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said.

There's no arguing that, and that's why Oklahoma linebacker Jordan Evans, Kansas State defensive end Jordan Willis, Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong and Oklahoma State defensive tackle Vincent Taylor are likely competing against one another.

Tackles stand out. Sacks cannot be ignored. Evans is scoring touchdowns. Taylor is blocking kicks. Willis anchors the Big 12's top-ranked defense. Armstrong is a menace.

And there's no arguing that quarterbacks and receivers make cornerbacks look foolish. A year ago, WVU's Daryl Worley led the conference in interceptions, but not everyone agreed he had a great season and some suspected his interceptions came because defenses targeted him. Ultimately, he was drafted in the third round a year earlier than expected, and he starts today for the Carolina Panthers.

But if the battle every game is to win with the ball in the air or to get the person with the ball on the ground, wouldn't a cornerback be a logical candidate for the award? And why isn't WVU's Rasul Douglas the leader, never mind a contender?

"We still have two games to play, Mountaineers defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said, "but right now, his numbers speak for themselves.

They'll have to, at least for a week. Douglas was sick Tuesday and couldn't speak with reporters. For now, the only number WVU cares about is the two games, beginning with Saturday's 3:30 p.m. matchup with Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium.

"I don't know if he's the best, said cornerbacks coach Blue Adams. "He's playing good ball. I don't know how all the corners in the league are doing, but he's not first. …

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