Sometimes, coaches just know they have recruited a player that should be truly special. Roberts could have taken credit after Kyeremeh’s strong start to WVU’s fall camp, but he acknowledged his expectations were not quite as high as the new corner’s level of play would have merited.
“He’s a natural ball-player,” Roberts said, noting he didn’t even truly appreciate Kyeremeh’s wingspan until very recently. “You watch Nana’s tape from high school and you see he blocked seven or eight kicks, extra points and punts. That showed me that he had the vision. You watch the Honey Badger’s tape coming out of high school, and he blocked several punts and kicks. To locate the ball when you’re bending around the edge at the last second, OK, you’ve got good eyes.
“I wondered if that ability was going to translate for Nana from safety to corner, where things are sped up a little bit. I’m not playing a guy from a depth of 20 yards. Now I’m at seven yards, or I’m man-to-man in press [coverage]. Things happen a lot quicker, but I’ll tell you: we’ve been pleased. I’m always reluctant to get too confident when it comes to freshmen, but the kid keeps showing up. If he keeps playing the way he’s played in these first few practices, it’s going to be hard to keep him from playing on Saturdays.”
Indeed, Roberts said not only is the true freshman firmly entrenched in the team’s two-deep roster, but that he is pushing presumptive starters Brodrick Jenkins and Pat Miller for additional playing time “in a very serious way.”
It’s rather effusive praise for Kyeremeh, a native of Worthington, Ohio. For his own part, the safety-turned-cornerback claims to be feeling confident as camp nears a close and the Mountaineers draw closer to game-planning for the Sept. 1 season-opener against Marshall.
And why not? He has been holding his own in practices, according to Roberts, despite the level of competition he is going against on a daily basis.
“Coming from a smaller high school, going against guys like Stedman [Bailey] and Sticks [Ivan McCartney] and all these great receivers we have on the team, it makes you better because you have to focus more on technique and all the little things,” Kyeremeh said. “Once you go out, you just know. Every Saturday that comes up, we’ll be facing good receivers, but I don’t know if they’ll be as good as the guys we have on our team.”
Add that sort of confidence to the realities of life in the Big 12, West Virginia’s new conference, and it becomes clear why Kyeremeh thinks it is very possible he could avoid a redshirt this season as a true freshman.
Kyeremeh said co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest pointed out that his Oklahoma State team played roughly 110 snaps on defense in a game against Texas Tech in recent years. All those plays mean more substitutions, and more substitutions means more players on the field.
For his part, Roberts seems to have little problem with the idea of throwing Kyeremeh into the rotation at cornerback as a true freshman.
“I believe there is an innate ability in some players to track a ball that’s being thrown 40 yards down the field, find it, locate it and either break it up or catch it,” said Roberts, the team’s cornerbacks coach after spending last season on the offensive side of the ball. “I think we have some guys that have shown the ability to do that. Obviously, Nana comes to mind. He’s made several plays on the ball. He’s leading our team in interceptions, in pass break-ups. He’s shown, just from this first third of camp, that he’s a guy who can maybe contribute for us. We’re looking forward to seeing what he might be able to do.”
Roberts attempted to avoid lavishing too much praise on Kyeremeh, but he couldn’t help but rave about the freshman’s natural ability and aptitude for the game.
After all, as the former NFL defensive assistant noted, there’s nothing easy about playing cornerback against offensive skill players like those on the WVU roster.
“Take a guy like Geno Smith, who has great rotation, great volume, great velocity, great ball placement,” Roberts said. “When you’re running down the field and you don’t know what the route is, to be able to read the body language of the receiver -- and a lot of times we play man-to-man coverage, so you have your back to the quarterback -- and then within a half a second be able to locate that ball when it’s thrown, that’s why I coach defense. I love it. I love it. When you see a guy who can do that consistently, you know you have somebody special.”
In Nana Kyeremeh, it’s apparent the Mountaineers may have somebody special.