The Raiders could soon find themselves a new fan favorite in first-round draft pick Karl Joseph, the safety taken No. 14 overall from West Virginia.
“He won over the hearts of Mountaineer Nation very, very quickly,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgerson said Friday on 95.7 The Game. “He’ll do the same thing for Raider Nation.”
Holgerson backed up all of the talk about Joseph being a hard-working, high character player.
“In today’s day and time, there’s a lot of kids that don’t do the right thing and they want things to happen for them very quickly and right now and make bad decisions in the mean time,” Holgerson said. “This is a guy that makes the right decisions. He made the right decision coming back to school. He made the right decisions every day. It was a joy to coach and everybody’s going to fall in love with him.”
It could’ve been easy to wonder at a point if Joseph’s decision to return to West Virginia for his senior year was a wise one, considering he could’ve possibly been a first-round pick last year and then torn his ACL after just four games.
But Holgerson said Joseph placed a premium on completing his degree and, despite the knee injury that cut short his collegiate career, his return helped make him a better player by addressing concerns about his pass coverage skills. He had five interceptions in the four games before getting hurt.
“They said he needed to work on his coverage skills a little bit so he came back, he worked on his coverage skills,” Holgerson said of the feedback following Joseph’s junior season. “I think the interceptions that he had this year just shows what kind of work ethic that he’s got. He wanted to get his degree so he left WVU with a degree. If he left early, he wasn’t going to get that done, so he made his parents proud, made me proud from just simply finishing what he started.”
Joseph was a team leader for Holgerson’s team, so much so that he said, “I could’ve named him captain as a freshman because he was our defensive leader as a true freshman.”
With it now clear Joseph’s knee injury didn’t affect his draft stock, Holgerson expressed his one disappointment in the early end to the safety’s senior year.
“At that point in time, he was the best defensive player in college football,” Holgerson said. “I think anybody that saw him play those four games would say that. He would’ve been on every All-American list. He would’ve won every defensive player of the year award. So it was sad not to see him do that, but obviously his future is bright.”
As for Joseph’s skills, Holgerson is in lock step with Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Jack Del Rio in talking about his versatility and ability to play anywhere. In fact, Holgerson said he initially recruited the 5-foot-10, 205-pound Joseph as a middle linebacker.
“He can play in the box,” Holgerson said. “He can get in the backfield. He can cover in man coverage and then you can put his butt back there on the hash and he can go sidelines to sidelines. It doesn’t matter where you need him, he’s going to be able to fill any kind of role that you need.”
And yes, Holgerson raved about Joseph’s ability to lay the lumber.
“Karl is known across the country as one of the most fearless hitters in the country,” he said. “He’s got great ball skills, great coverage skills, but the toughness and physicality that he brings to the table is what separates him from other guys.”