West Virginia cornerback Daryl Worley has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. Worley’s suspension comes at a critical point for the Mountaineers, as a showdown against Big 12 title favorite Oklahoma is ahead on Saturday.
There’s no question Worley’s absence will be felt on West Virginia’s defense. Oklahoma’s passing attack is averaging 293.3 passing yards per game, and receiver Sterling Shepard has caught 17 passes for 335 yards and two scores in three contests. Individual matchups always change throughout the game, but there was a good possibility Worley and Shepard would have squared off several times on Saturday.
Shepard is one of the Big 12’s top targets, and Knight has made progress as a passer since gashing Alabama for 348 yards in the Sugar Bowl. Needless to say, keeping Knight and Shepard under wraps just got a lot tougher for West Virginia on Saturday.
With Worley anchoring the secondary, West Virginia was holding opponents to just 204.7 yards per game through the air. And the Mountaineers allowed only two passing touchdowns through their first three games.
Worley is the top cornerback for Tony Gibson’s defense, but there’s experience in place with junior Terrell Chestnut and senior Travis Bell at cornerback. Also, senior Ishmael Banks is slated to return after a three-game academic suspension to begin 2014.
Banks, Chestnut and Bell have to step up on Saturday, but the secondary could use more help from the front seven. The defensive line is averaging two sacks per game in 2014 and getting more pressure on Knight would help compensate for Worley’s absence on the back end.
Worley is already regarded as one of the top cornerbacks in the Big 12 and has forced the Mountaineers’ only turnovers (two) this year.
In three games, Worley has recorded 17 tackles (two for a loss) and two interceptions.
In 11 appearances last year, the Philadelphia native recorded 45 tackles and one interception.
The length of Worley’s suspension is uncertain. But assuming he’s out of the lineup on Saturday night, it’s a huge loss for a West Virginia team that appears to be one of the most improved squads in the nation this year. And looking farther down the road on the Mountaineers’ schedule, matchups against Texas Tech and Baylor will certainly test the secondary.
West Virginia was already facing an uphill battle against Oklahoma. Without Worley, that task on Saturday night just got a lot tougher.