WVU Sports with Mike Casazza

That (first) time Karl put someone to sleep…

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Who knows if this is true or not, but a talked-about draft preview with anonymous quotes from scouts says Karl Joseph “knocked out I think eight people in his career.” That’s not a funny thing, we’re not here to point at Marquise Goodwin and it’s feels weird that knockouts were presented as some sort of metric knowing what we know about the brain these days, but we can agree on this: Karl Joseph’s tackles were frequently more events than they were statistics.

This is from the fourth game of his first season, and though he’d leveled people before that, this was the first “Oh, mercy!” hit on his list.

It’s easy to forget today as we recall all the plays Joseph made as the bandit, but he started out as a free safety, and he made up for what he didn’t know about playing in the defensive backfield at this level by running downhill and flattening foes.

Fun fact about Joseph: He was a high school wrestler, basically because he wanted to find a way to literally fight boredom after football season. It’s one reason he arrived at West Virginia without any room for fear or time for apologies. He was going to let his teammates know who he was as soon and as unforgettably as possible.

When spring football came, he got to know linebacker Josh Francis in a rather unique way.

“Francis will wrestle anybody,” Garvin said of the 6-foot, 1-inch, 220-pound Francis, who was toughened by growing up in Damascus, Md., and then playing junior college football for two years at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pa. “He’s a big, bad guy around here and if you wrestle Francis, you’re most likely going to lose.

“Karl ended up winning, so people were like, ‘Hold on, who’s that?’ ”

Not everyone knew, so Joseph took it upon himself to make sure they knew his name and understood he wasn’t scared of anything – except snakes, and he wouldn’t dare tell anyone that. During one spring practice, just as he was beginning to get his hands on some playing time, Joseph was with the defense that was going against an offense handing off to running back Shawne Alston.

Alston slipped through a gap before running into a pile of offensive and defensive players.

“I came to a stop,” Alston said. “Karl kept going. He blew me up a little bit.” Alston knew better than to ever let up again. “After that,” he said, “I started running angry all the time.”

Karl Joseph enrolled in January of his freshman year, and early in his first round of spring football with West Virginia, it was apparent he’d be a player from the start.

“You can pencil him in to play a good bit,” Coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He is mature, he is physical and he is not scared. Sometimes it takes guys a couple of years before they are physically ready to play or mentally ready to play. Whatever it is, it was an easy adjustment for him.”

Yet Joseph, a true freshman safety from Orlando, Fla., who has been on campus barely three months, doesn’t know why he is a big deal. He would be more disappointed if he wasn’t already in position to play a lot at the bandit position.

“I knew I’d be able to compete,” he said. “Football is my passion. I love to play and it drives me to get better. I like to watch film by myself sometimes to correct my mistakes so I already know what I did wrong before my coach tells me. You’ve got to be driven by it.”

Sure enough, Joseph started at free safety in his first game with the Mountaineers, and he’d start all 42 games he played in gold and blue. He was at the beginning what he was at the end: Quiet, confident and the last player you’d worry about before or during the game.

Oklahoma Mountaineer Drills are fun, I guess, but the surroundings always make it more exciting. Players and coaches  cried the drill and desire savagery, and the offense and the defense react in proportion to the outcome of the action.

It’s routine, to be honest, but every so often, you get a matchup everyone wants to see. Kevin White v. Karl Joseph during the 2014 camp was one of those matchups, and there was a buzz before this happened and then afterward.

Those two became good friends during the two years they spent together, and they were the baddest guys on the team that season. No wonder they remain close enough that White counseled Joseph before the draft. No wonder Joseph made a lot of bold proclamations, stirring soundbytes that sounded a like White.

It’s Karl Joseph day!

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Normally, I wouldn’t post a nine-minute video and ask or expect you to watch, but come on, it’s Karl Joseph and a collection of his greatest hits. (I forgot how great he was against Oklahoma, which was his last game. That hit on Perine was absurd.)

It seems like he’ll be drafted today, though nothing is guaranteed. It would happen late in the first round, and some of the teams there have maintained interest, but someone explained to me how a team or teams trading up to get into the final, say, third of of the first round could affect Joseph.

If a team wants to get, say, Paxton Lynch or Corey Coleman/Josh Doctson because the quality dips at their positions after they’re picked, a team that could conceivably want Joseph might be willing to swap picks and see if he’s there early in the second round. That’s certainly feasible if you look at the final few picks of the first and the first few of the second.

But that’s, at best, guessing. Here’s a fact: I’ll devote the rest of today to some of our favorite Joseph articles and moments.

 

 

K.J. Dillon’s getting drafted this weekend, but he’s not having a draft party until Saturday, and his reasoning, it turns out, is perfectly sound. And while we know there are so many cool and defining stories about Dillon, there’s one we didn’t know.

He grew up in a house with his mom, his grandmother, his two sisters and one niece, but a man who kicked Dillon off the track team as a freshman later helped him get accustomed to the recruiting process.

“I didn’t have any contacts,” Proffitt said. “What I found out was K.J. was getting letters. What I did was just facilitate things. ‘K.J., they’re sending you letters for a reason. This is what you need to do.’ He said nobody told him any of that, who to call, what to do.

“So I took the role, I guess, of K.J.’s dad, like anybody else would. I called the schools. ‘Why are you calling my son? What’s your interest in my son?’ They’d say, ‘Who are you?’ and I’d say, ‘I’m K.J.’s dad. He looks like his mother, but he acts like me.’ That was one of the things I’d say, and K.J. would get a laugh out of it, too.”

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The 11th player in West Virginia history to top 1,000 points and 800 rebounds as well as the first bench player to ever lead the Mountaineers in scoring were named team MVPs at an awards banquet Monday. Tarik Phillip, James Long, Jevon Carter, Nate Adrian and Jon Holton were also honored.

Williams, meanwhile, was included on the NBA draft’s official early entry list Tuesday, and there have been some developments today.

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I suppose the highlight of this story is that one scout absolutely doesn’t like Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple and says, “I worry about him because of off-the-field issues. The kid has no life skills. At all. Can’t cook. Just a baby. He’s not first round for me. He scares me to death.”

But what we also find is that, once again, the folks who get to talk about Karl Joseph have so much fun with their words. This might be better than that NFL.com profile we like so very much.

Seriously, get a load of these quotes.

SAFETIES

1. KARL JOSEPH, West Virginia (5-9 ½, 206, 4.55, 2): Possibly the hardest hitter in the draft. “He will separate you from your helmet,” said one scout. “He hits you, the play is over. He’s knocked out I think eight people in his career. For a guy that is an absolute meteorite as a tackler, he’s a pretty good tackler, too. Before he got hurt this year he had five interceptions in (four) games. His biggest questions are height and prolonged durability.” Suffered a torn ACL in practice but is on schedule to play this season. “Love this kid,” said another scout. “Bright, humble. He’s built well, he will hold up physically and he can cover.” Started 42 games, finishing with 194 tackles (16 ½ for loss), 9 picks and 8 PBUs. “Oh, man, he’s tough as hell,” said a third scout. “He’s something else.” From Orlando, Fla. Wonderlic of 18.

The draft begins tomorrow, and I’m off the rest of the week, but what do you say we use this space for some “Best of…” highlights for the players who get selected?

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The NFL draft begins tomorrow, and I’m getting strong, 11th-hour indications Karl Joseph will be picked in the first round.

If only he were bigger.

Not bad for someone who last year was told he’d be picked anywhere between the second and seventh rounds in the 2015 draft. Anyhow, I’d like to turn this into a competition, if that’s OK with you.

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Newcomers can help, but where will they?

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CHRISTIAN TYLER RANDOLPH | Gazette-Mail WVU Head Coach Dana Holgorsen during WVU's Gold-Blue game at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. on Saturday April 23, 2016.

 

That guy has spent seasons building his roster so he doesn’t have to recruit an army of junior college transfers and rely on freshmen. When the plan has worked, the team has been better. When his hand has been forced, the team has had the expected issues.

The Mountaineers have nine freshmen on campus already who were with the team for the spring, and a couple of them are going to play in the fall, more because of skill than because of circumstance, though certainly a combination is involved. The team will welcome 18 high school grads and junior college transfers during the summer who did not do spring football with the team.

So here’s a fun over/under: How many of the 18 will play in the fall?

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