Before we get started with that player (and I'm sure some of you already know who I'm speaking of), it should be clear that I don't think the foursome listed at the top of this column aren't deserving of the praise they have gotten so far. Irvin has the potential to lead the nation in sacks and earn himself a high spot in next year's NFL Draft, while Smith, at the controls of Dana Holgorsen's offense, could put up big numbers and thrust himself into the conversation as one of the nation's top QBs. Miller and Tandy, as anchors of the defense, have helped build the unit into a national power and will be counted on to do so again this year. So, this isn't to say that they haven't earned their time in the preseason sun.
As often happens, however, the shadows cast by those in that sun can obscure others standing behind them. That's no fault of their own – it's simply that some storylines get repeated by different media outlets, then picked up on by national writers, thus creating a cycle that can be difficult for others to break in to. Fan chatter, whether electronic or face-to-face, also contributes to that. And while all of those things are good, as they help solidify and support interest in the program, they can also keep some other players out of the spotlight.
Another factor in the lack of attention for our subject was the coaching situation at WVU, which played out from the end of last season all the way through June of this year. That story took much of the focus off the team, and cut down on space and time usually devoted to players. There was also the attention on Holgorsen's offense, which inspired a number of stories and analyses on its success and its adaptation at West Virginia. Add up all of those factors, and it's probably no surprise that a few Mountaineers haven't gotten the notoriety their performance has demanded.
You can add me right in there with that crowd that didn't give this player his due notice. I wrote an article on his progression as a leader back in June, but that wasn't enough. Several times this summer, I'd thought, 'I need to write this story', but ended up pushing it back due to new developments, breaking commitments and other duties. So, at this point, I'm fixing that. It's time to bring Terence Garvin center stage.
Those following West Virginia won't be surprised to see this name. Garvin was good enough to avoid a redshirt in his first year on campus, and it wasn't just ceremonial. He recorded 10 tackles in a mix of special teams and backup action, and served notice that he would be a contender for more service in years to come. As a sophomore, he exceeded all expectations by leading the team in tackles and becoming a force against both the run and the pass. In what was to become a repeating theme in his career, however, he wasn't singled out for a great deal of individual praise. Irvin leaped onto the scene with 14 sacks. Miller, Chris Neild and Scooter Berry teamed to form a dominant defensive line. J.T. Thomas led an active linebacking corps. Tandy and Brandon Hogan shone in pass coverage. Robert Sands was an intimidating, ball-hawking presence at the back of the defense. Everywhere you looked, stories abounded, so it probably wasn't a big surprise that someone got overlooked. But the team's leading tackler?
Part of perhaps, is attributable to Gavin's persona. He's very friendly and engaging, greeting interviewers with a smile and providing thoughtful answers, but he doesn't have an outsized personality. He doesn't brag or make brash pronouncements, or bring attention to himself. In today's world, that equals anonymity.
He wasn't a faceless player to West Virginia's opponents, however. Garvin roamed the fie;d as a first-time starter during his sophomore year, and recorded 76 tackles. Forty-one of those were unassisted, demonstrating his ability to get to the ball quickly and make plays on his own. He ranged from the backfield (4.5 tackles for loss and a sack) to deep downfield (four pass breakups) and always seemed to be around the ball.
In addition to versatility, consistency is also one of Garvin's calling cards. After every game, all of us at the Blue & Gold News select an offensive and defensive player of the game, and it seemed that Garvin's name was in the mix just about every week. He had at least five tackles in nine of WVU's 13 games, and played with a steadiness that belies his youth while earning the team's defensive champion award in three games.
It seems at this point as if Garvin has been at West Virginia a long time, but in fact his career is just half-completed. That should be an exciting thought for Mountaineer fans as the season approaches, because he's poised to do even more in WVU's defense this year. He should be listed on everyone's preseason watch list for all-league honors, but he's flying under the radar there as well. He also plays a position that isn't a typical one on all-league teams, so it can be difficult to classify him. He'll be looked at as a strong safety, but unless he gets four or five interceptions, he's not going to be considered by all-league voters. If he doesn't have 100 tackles (a difficulty in WVU's defense), he might not have the numbers to attract the attention necessary to make some of those teams.
All of that doesn't matter in the long run, though. What does matter is that West Virginia has another player that it can rebuild its defense around, and one that is very productive on the field – even if few notice him.