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WVU safety Joseph is durable, dependable and a punishing hitter |

WVU safety Joseph is durable, dependable and a punishing hitter

John Harris
| Wednesday, August 12, 2015 9:36 p.m
Steph Chambers | Trib Total Media
West Virginia safety Karl Joseph (left) defends against TCU wide receiver Kolby Listenbee on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, in Morgantown, W.Va.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Safety Karl Joseph started all 38 games he has played at West Virginia.

He received All-Big 12 recognition last season and twice has been named to the conference’s preseason all-league team.

Despite the accolades, Joseph believes he still hasn’t played his best football as a leader on the Mountaineers’ rising defense.

“Everything seems to have slowed down. I just feel so much more comfortable,” said Joseph, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior from Orlando, Fla., and a member of the Jim Thorpe Award watch list honoring the nation’s top defensive back. “I feel like I belong.”

Strange words coming from a player who sets the standard for toughness and durability. On the field, Joseph is a one-man wrecking ball who delivers punishing hits. He’s an intimidating presence.

“When you watch him play, how he hits, he’s the most physical football player I’ve ever been around,” WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. “He’s a big muscle.”

Joseph has crafted an impressive streak of longevity that never may be duplicated. Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said Joseph has lined up for approximately 3,300 snaps and projects he will conclude his college career with nearly 4,500 plays from scrimmage.

“That probably hasn’t ever been done in college football,” Holgorsen said. “You can’t replace the experience that he’s got.”

Last season, Joseph saw action on 1,053 plays, including 947 defensive snaps, most of any WVU defender.

Given his hard-hitting reputation, Joseph — called college football’s most physical player by — was a candidate for the new helmet targeting rule.

A thinker as well as a hitter, he was second on the team last year with 92 tackles and added three forced fumbles, but he wasn’t penalized for targeting.

That wasn’t an accident.

“The first year they put that rule in, I told everybody I would be all right because I always try to attack with the proper technique,” Joseph said.

“It’s not like I’m just running around out there with my head cut off. It’s about being smart.”

“He studies tape. He overworks himself at times,” WVU safeties coach Joe DeForest said. “You have to pull him back and say, ‘You can’t work out every day.’ It means a lot to him. This is his dream.”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @jharris_trib.

Categories: WVU
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