To be honest, there weren't really many negatives to any of Derek Knight
's top three choices. Arizona State
and West Virginia
were "all wonderful", according to the Detroit standout.
"I really thought about it a lot," said Knight, who had already visited the Sun Devils and Buffaloes, but had to rest his trip to West Virginia for Nov. 5. "Of all three schools, none were in Michigan, so I knew I would be going away to school. Then I thought about my family coming to games. They could make the trip from Detroit, and also my mother has family that lives in Fairmont, so they would be close if I got a little homesick or anything.
"I don't think my mom's family knows about [my commitment] yet. My mom has been emailing them, and I'm sure they will be very excited when they find out. I have a cousin there who's about 14 or 15, and I know he will be very excited."
Distance and family weren't the only reasons Knight selected West Virginia. The Mountaineers' play on the field, as well as the school's academics, were also involved.
"I've been told that the academics are good, and I have been researching that," said Knight, who is interested in sports science, computer science or business management as a major. "To be honest, I didn't even know much about West Virginia until a few months ago. My coach started talking to me about them, so I started researching them and watching some of their games. They impressed me. They win games. I love to win –there's nothing better to me than that. I play my heart out to win."
After playing much of his career as a linebacker, Knight switched to safety this year, where he racked up some impressive numbers. He had 116 tackles, four sacks, four forced fumbles, 14 pass breakups and two interceptions in a run-dominated league.
"Not too many of the quarterbacks in our league throw the ball that much," Knight said. "We have a lot of running quarterbacks."
As a result of that, Knight's coaches decided to put him at safety this year, so as to use his good coverage skills, but also keep him close to the action on running plays. That strategy paid off in a big way, as his aggressive run support dovetailed nicely with his open field coverage ability.
"I haven't played cornerback in games, but I went man-to-man in camps against receivers all the time," Knight said. "Also, I would play against receivers as a safety a lot. I can cover the pass, and I am a big hitter. That helps me against the run, which is one of my strong points."
Knight, at six feet and 192 pounds, was also a blocking fullback on occasion for Renaissance High, which attests to his aggressive nature and love of contact. He also got "a few touches" and "caught a couple of passes" but there's no doubt that he will be a safety, spur or bandit for the Mountaineers.
"I can see myself helping at those positions," said Knight, who took in the WVU-Louisville game last Thursday. "The coaches talked to me about playing spur or bandit, and I think I would fit in good there."
Knight was recruited by assistant coach Butch Jones, who made his first significant pickup from the state for WVU.
"I think he is a real down to earth guy," Knight said of Jones. "He's honest and straight to the point. I think he is a very good coach.
* * *
Knight was on campus for an unofficial visit in September for the Marshall game, and will return on an official visit on November 25th.
"All of my family will come with me for that one," he noted.
* * *
Knight's Renaissance team finished the season 6-4 with a loss in the first round of the playoffs. He will run track this spring, competing in the 100-meter dash as well as the 4x100 and 4x200 relays.
* * *
Knight appears to be in good shape to qualify. His most recent report card showed a 3.5 GPA, which should bring his overall into the 3.2 range. He has a 19 on the ACT with a retake pending.
West Virginia's most recent football verbal commitment was planning on waiting until after he took all of his visits to make his choice, but after rescheduling a visit to one of his favorites, he began thinking about the pluses and minuses of each.