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2015 West Virginia Mountaineers Football Unit Preview: Staunch Secondary

The West Virginia secondary is, by in large, the strongest unit on the football team and very well could be one of the best in the country.

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.....it's one of the nation's 10 best secondaries. And unless (Tom) Bradley was the true linchpin of the front six, this defense might be one of the nation's 10 best as well.

-Bill Connelly, SB Nation CFB Writer

The defensive backs unit is one of the most important squads in a Big 12 program and the West Virginia Mountaineers are, simply put, loaded when it comes to the secondary. With practically everyone returning from last year's lineup that already took major strides when it comes to the national reputation of the WVU pass defense, the buzz really began for the 2015 edition when Karl Joseph decided to return for his senior year. The defensive backs were already going to be the strength of what is the "Dana Holgorsen bizarro world great defense/okay offense" roster, but Joseph's decision to forgo the NFL Draft put the Mountaineers in the conversation of college football's best. Since we've already discussed him, let's talk about West Virginia's star-Buck safety.

Buck Safety: Karl Joseph (Sr.), Jarrod Harper (r-Jr.)

Karl Joseph is everything you want in a hard-hitting, run-stopping defensive back and has been since introducing himself to Marquise Goodwin his freshman year. Second on the team in tackles only to Nick Kwiatkoski with 75, Joseph shuts down the opposing rush on the weak side. He will be an All-American and first round pick being already listed on NFL.com as the #1 most physical player in America two years running, so enjoy him while he's still in Morgantown.

Jarrod Harper would have been a capable starter if Karl Joseph had left for the draft, so he's more than a serviceable backup at this point. After showing improvements in summer camp, defensive coordinator Tony Gibson has no problem putting in Harper in any down or situation.

Spur Safety: KJ Dillon (Sr.), Jeremy Tyler (Jr.)

KJ Dillon is the true wildcard of this Mountaineers defense and could arguably be the second most influential player of the 2015 season behind Skyler Howard. In the pure football sense, Dillon is a nasty, sledgehammer of a safety who manages the very complex position of Spur like a pro and has the athletic ability to hold the punter returner spot. The reason why he is so influential to the Eers' success is his bad side with personal fouls and straight up game ejections. Dillon could be one of the brightest in a star-studded backfield, but he has to keep it under control.

Jeremy Tyler is a damned-good football player that fits in well wherever asked. You'll find him making plays across all special teams squads and is versatile enough to backup at both Free and Spur safety positions. The fact Tyler fits in at both of those very different positions speaks to his football smarts.

Free Safety: Dravon Askew-Henry (So.), Shane Commodore (r-So.)

Dravon Askew-Henry was a big signing for the Mountaineers and proved it on the field all of last year to the tune of making the ESPN True Freshman All-American list. Askew-Henry looked the part in a very experienced group of DBs and now has an entire year under his belt, so don't be surprised if he racks up a few interceptions (similar to his pick-six in Stillwater last year) and transitions into becoming a main point of leadership as this season progresses.

The Morgantown High School walk-on Shane Commodore is named second on the depth chart to backup Dravon Askew-Henry, but Casazza said it best the other day that it will probably be Jeremy Tyler filling in when need be.

Left Cornerback: Terrell Chestnut (r-Sr.), Nana Kyeremeh (r-Jr.)

Terrell Chestnut If you don't already know about Terrell Chestnut's efforts off the field, educate yourself. While Chestnut is a good dude off the field, he fits the lockdown corner role very well. The big question mark is if these corners, Chestnut included, are going to force turnovers like the huge one he had against TCU.

Nana Kyeremeh had a great camp in August and really helped the cornerback rotation to be settled (or closer to be settled.) If Kyeremeh can provide the security that Chestnut does, you won't see many big plays coming from the left side of the field.

Right Cornerback: Daryl Worley (Jr.), Rick Rumph III (Sr.)

Daryl Worley is West Virginia's feature cornerback and for good reason. He's slowly developed into one of the Big 12's best cornerbacks as he simply does not get beat over the top often. With three interceptions last year, Worley does his part in the turnover production, but WVU will need more of where that came from in 2015.

Ricky Rumph has shifted to and from different positions in the secondary during his career in Morgantown and it seems that he has finally found a home in CB. His development has been an interesting story line when it comes to the battle at cornerback as he becomes both stronger and faster to keep coverage for longer periods. If Rumph and Kyeremeh both can provide suitable backup service, this defensive backfield could be lethal.