‘I've got my confidence back'

Much of the talk from West Virginia's defensive players has been of a sort of rebirth in 2013, so it makes sense that junior cornerback Ishmael Banks believes he's ready for a breakout season.

Banks, who played in all 13 games last season, was part of the abysmal Mountaineers secondary, which finished 118th in the nation in passing defense.

Changes have led to a revitalization in the defense, however, as defensive coordinator Keith Patterson has brought a scheme that should make it a little less taxing for the corners. New cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell also brings some added experience and has become a wealth of knowledge for his players.

"It's a lot simpler this year," Banks said. "We can line up and play. It's assignment football. You have a job to do, and you just do that job. That's how the defense works, so it's a lot easier for us to understand and be able to play football like we were used to."

Banks, like many of the Mountaineers' players, said that looking back on last year, he didn't prepare well enough in the offseason – and that showed throughout the 2012 season.

"You can't any days off – especially in the offseason. I don't think I did a good enough job last year at preparing, and it caught up with me. I'm glad it did, because it taught me that you can't take any days off. You've got to be consistent," Banks said.

This spring, he changed his mindset and has come to practice a bit more focused. He has tried to perfect his technique this spring and learn his keys better. Sounds easy, right? Just line up and do your job? Maybe not so much, though, because the Mountaineers have so much work to do to improve from last year's awful performance.

"You forget about [the 2012 season], or at least you try to, but it's always in the back of your mind, and that's good. It's just something that you're going to either learn from or dwell on, and I've told our guys not to dwell on it. It's just a learning experience – you need to learn to take something from it," Banks said. "I didn't catch all of what people were saying, but I did hear what people were saying on Sportscenter. They'd be like, ‘the secondary is weak.' You just learned to roll with it. You can't really take it to heart. Everyone has their opinions. Everyone has their ways. We knew that were just inexperienced."

The Mountaineers are a year more experienced now, so that won't be a legitimate excuse anymore. The team is used to the Big 12 Conference and what it should expect from the teams it will face this year.

And it seems the secondary – specifically Banks – has its swagger back.

"It's a lot different this year. I've gotten my confidence back. This spring has helped me get my confidence back. This scheme has helped me get my confidence back. It's like I can just play my game and not worry about a whole lot else. Our coaches are doing a good job of giving us the right techniques, and everyone is really buying in," Banks said. "I won't take nothing less than a starting job. I'm going into my fourth year, I won't take nothing less."

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