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Karl Joseph growing into complete player

The YouTube clip is labeled “Karl Joseph kills a man in Texas.”

While that label is a bit over the top, it does underscore the tone of the hit from the West Virginia safety which served as his introduction to the rest of the Big 12. Then a true freshman, Joseph knocked out Texas receiver Marquise Goodwin with a bone-rattling hit in 2012, which he calls it his favorite hit of his career.

“I showed everybody I could be physical,” Joseph said.

A few weeks later Joseph picked up Oklahoma receiver Justin Brown and tossed him to the ground like a rag doll, further cementing his reputation as one of the Big 12’s hardest hitters.

“That was definitely my favorite part about playing football since I started playing, the physical part of it,” Joseph said.

Joseph has continued to be a opponent’s worst nightmare in the middle of WVU’s secondary during the past two seasons. He had 102 tackles as a true freshman and 68 tackles as a sophomore.

“He’s a thumper,” Mountaineers safeties coach Joe DeForest said. “Every other game he has a hit that makes you go, ‘Wow, glad I’m not that dude.’”

Joseph immediately created a reputation as a hitter but was far from a finished product as a safety. He didn’t consider safety a permanent home until he stepped on campus, and his first-season production was largely the result of great instincts.

This season, Joseph is more than a fearsome hitter. The junior is developing into a more complete safety who is improving as a cover man yet remaining active around the football at all times.

“He’s just such an instinctive player,” DeForest said. “What he’s been able to do the past two years is get those valuable reps and now become a more knowledgeable player, before the ball is snapped.”

After starting his first collegiate game, earning freshman All-American honors and becoming a mainstay in WVU’s defense, Joseph could have felt like he arrived. Instead he’s remained hungry and constantly in the ear of DeForest, with an eye on learning the tricks of the trade that could help him elevate himself from one of the Big 12’s most-feared safeties into the conference's top safety.

“Karl does a great job studying film, studying his opponent and trying to get better,” DeForest said. “He’s the one kid after a play in practice that will look at me and say ‘What could I have done better?’ He wants to be perfect. That’s sometimes good and sometimes bad, but he wants to be great.”

The desire to be great has helped him step up in WVU’s biggest games. The junior was all over the place in WVU’s losses this season, recording 18 tackles against Alabama and 13 against Oklahoma. His five career double-digit tackle games have come against OU (twice), Alabama, Kansas State and Iowa State.

“I’m a competitor,” Joseph said. “Any time we’re in those big games, I really want to win. That’s the most important thing to me. I’m always looking to make those big plays for my team, and that’s what gets me hyped up more than the other games.”

The experience Joseph gained during his first two seasons has proven invaluable and provided a increased level of confidence. He’s gone from inexperienced freshman to an experienced junior captain. He’s not a vocal leader but he’s earned the respect of his teammates and knows exactly what to expect each Saturday. It’s paid off, not only for him, but for the Mountaineers’ defense as a whole.

“I always felt comfortable,” Joseph said. “It was about really having that experience and being able to really have that confidence. I’ve definitely gained that this year, I have a lot more confidence in myself.”