We'll take a look at some of the Big 12's breakout stars this spring, but we'll move forward with a series looking at guys who will be stepping into bigger roles this season and what they have to provide. Some are going from being role players to starters. Some are going from starter to star. Some from stars to bona fide superstars.
Let's finish up with West Virginia.
West Virginia's spring steps forward: Cornerback Brodrick Jenkins
West Virginia's defense had a whole bunch of issues last season, but cornerback was definitely one of the biggest. In fairness, WVU didn't manage much of a pass rush, but the secondary's cover skills left a lot to be desired in a league with receiver talent that absolutely demands it.
Jenkins will be a senior this season and the Mountaineers' lone returning starter at cornerback with Pat Miller gone. Position coach Daron Roberts was fired at the end of last season and replaced with Brian Mitchell, but West Virginia's secondary has a chance to become something of a strength in 2013. Safeties Karl Joseph and Darwin Cook return, and Joseph was the defense's best overall player last season. They'll be much less effective if the cornerback play doesn't improve, however. That's got to start with Jenkins, who made 31 tackles last season but intercepted just one pass, breaking up only two more.
He's got to be better. This isn't the Big East anymore. Any deficiencies in the secondary will be found and exposed by the Big 12's offenses, both in scheme and talent. Offenses in this league make you cover the whole field, and players in the secondary obviously cover the most ground. If you're strong there in the Big 12, you can definitely make an impact. If you're not, even with the best offensive skill talent in the league, you'll be spinning your wheels. West Virginia experienced that firsthand last season.
The cornerbacks were a frustration last season, but WVU's defense can make moves in the right direction if Jenkins closes his career with a strong 2013, his second season as a full-time starter.