We're back again with another edition of our 2017 Mountaineer football profile series. Today, we'll take a look at senior cornerback Elijah Battle, a grizzled veteran on this Mountaineer defense and a player that will be looked to as a leader in 2017.
Elijah Battle, CB, #20
Hometown: Newark, NJ
High School/JUCO: Barringer High School/Dodge City CC, Kansas
How he got to Morgantown
Battle parlayed a solid tenure at Dodge City CC where he emerged as a stalwart in secondary for the Conquistadors. His on-field play resulted in several Power 5 offers rolling in, including Arizona, Minnesota, Houston and UNLV. Initially, it was PJ Fleck’s Golden Gophers that were able to zero in on the NJ native and earn his commitment. However, recruiting being the fickle beast as it is, had other plans for Battle and less than two weeks after initially committing to play in Minnesota, the JUCO product would find himself face-to-face with then WVU corners coach Brian Mitchell. Shortly thereafter, Battle would pledge his services to the Mountaineers during an on-campus visit and sign his letter of intent in time to arrive on campus during the summer of 2016.
Battle suited up for every game in West Virginia’s 2016 campaign. However, having only able to record stats in seven of those games, Battle didn’t exactly make the biggest splash in his first year in Morgantown. That said, his best individual game came against the Mountaineers’ win against Baylor, in which he recorded seven total tackles, six of which were individual. For a more complete picture of what Battle is capable of doing, check out his highlights from Dodge City.
The story, again, with West Virginia’s secondary can be summed up as such: talented but inexperienced. This isn’t a knock on the individual parts that comprise Tony Gibson’s deep third, rather it’s just a blunt observation that Hakeem Bailey, Mike Daniels and Elijah Battle don’t exactly provide a lot of proven production at the corner position (Corey Winfield might be the lone exception).
That said, like Winfield, Battle is a bigger body at the cornerback position which bodes well for contesting jump balls and gaining a physical edge over some of the conference’s smaller, quicker receivers. As it stands, Battle looks to be behind Hakeem Bailey, whereas in the spring, the depth chart listed Battle as the starter at the RCB position over Jordan Adams. What does it all mean? It means that West Virginia is experiencing a certain level of parity at the corner position. There doesn’t seem to be (at least, not yet) a Rasul Douglas on this year’s team, the type of player who can tally eight interceptions on the year and earn himself a high draft stock.
It’s also an indicator of opportunity and, usually, the hungriest of the bunch emerges at the top. Battle has every opportunity to take hold of a starting spot and make a name for himself this year. With arguably the best safety duo in the nation keeping a lid on the deep third, it’s just a matter of making the best out of every snap and playing with an edge.
There won’t be a star cornerback this year. And, honestly, that is more than OK. Battle, along with Corey Winfield, Mike Daniels and Hakeem Bailey form a consistent barrier in the secondary and work as a unit to make the field as small as possible for opposing offenses. Battle’s large frame and aggressive play make life hard for opposing receivers and the physical nature of West Virginia’s corners wears on the arsenals across the Big 12. Much like Corey Winfield, I see Elijah Battle contributing a 40-50 tackle season with more than a few passes defended and an interception or two, to boot.
This secondary gels quickly after bottling up a young Virginia Tech offense and then gets a couple weeks to fine tune their craft before entering the Big 12 fray. By season’s end, Battle earns his helmet stickers and collects several highlight-worthy plays that signify he and his brethren under Doug Belk’s watch were much better and formidable than advertised, having had a key hand in landing West Virginia in the Big 12 title game in November.
Fellow Smoking Musket staff writers will look to round out the defensive player previews for 2017.