Joseph Maturing as a Leader

It doesn't take long for Karl Joseph to come up with an answer when he's asked what his favorite thing about playing football is.

And anyone who has watched the junior become a mainstay in the West Virginia secondary for the last two years can probably come up with the answer just as quickly as Joseph can.

"I love hitting people," Joseph said. "It's so fun, especially when they don't see you coming. It's fun to get a little bit of a cheap hit on them when they're coming across and don't expect it.

"It's probably not as fun for them, but I like it."

Joseph has been looked at to step up in a big way ever since he stepped foot on campus for spring practice heading into his freshman season. After impressing during those 15 practices, Joseph earned his way into the rotation at safety and eventually went on to become a starter. Now, he's started all 25 games of his career and is ready to take over as a leader for the Mountaineer defense in 2014.

While he wanted to take over a similar role last season, he wasn't quite there yet. It's one thing to say he wanted to be a leader, but Joseph knew that in order to truly lead the WVU defense the way he wanted to, he would need to show growth off the field as well as his continued improvement in between the lines.

As it usually goes with kids attempting to adjust to being away from home and own their own for the first time, Joseph ran into some trouble and had a few roadblocks to work through during his first couple of years in Morgantown. But since then, as he heads into his third season as a Mountaineer, he's ready to prove he has what it takes to be the leader West Virginia needs to anchor the defense.

"I'm a lot more mature," he said. "I'm accepting this role. I know when it's time to be serious and when it's time to have fun in the locker room. I've been here a couple of years, I know what it takes to win now."

He knows that involves more than just showing up during practice and on game days and expecting to be as good as he could possibly be. It's about work that begins in one place.

"It's about being prepared. I work hard watching film," Joseph said. "I try to be coachable, allow the coaches to tell me what I'm doing wrong. As long as I feel I'm prepared, I'll be fine."

Through his first two seasons, Joseph became known for his ability to deliver bone-crushing hits. He had 104 tackles in 2012, the third-most in school history for a freshman. That number fell to 68 last season as a sophomore.

For his career, Joseph has intercepted three passes and forced four fumbles. The Orlando, Fla., native recovered two fumbles a season ago, returning both for touchdowns. Only three players on the Mountaineer offense – Charles Sims, Dreamius Smith and Kevin White – scored more touchdowns than Joseph did last season.

Now with Tony Gibson taking over at defensive coordinator and WVU adjusting to a new scheme, Joseph doesn't see it having much of an effect on his game.

"I'm playing bandit now, so it's not too much of a difference. I'm just on the shorter side of the field," Joseph said. "It's up to the guys to know their keys and where they're at and where they're supposed to be on every play. This should allow us to play a lot faster and that's a good thing for us."

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