MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- When asked about his defense's goals for the 2011 season, West Virginia cornerback Keith Tandy repeats the company line this spring: Create more turnovers.
In reality, though, it would be hard for Tandy to come up with more change-of-possession plays than he did in 2010. One of the most improved players in the Big East, he led the league with six interceptions and forced a fumble. He also tied for the lead in the conference in passes defended (17) and was second in pass breakups (11) while earning first-team All-Big East honors.
Tandy readily admitted that he got so many opportunities to make plays last year because opposing offenses avoided Brandon Hogan on the other side of the field. With Hogan now waiting to hear his name called in this weekend's NFL draft, it's Tandy's turn to step up and be the lockdown corner.
"That's what I'm striving for," he said. "If quarterbacks aren't throwing to your side, you're doing something good."
This spring, Tandy moved from the right to the left side of the field -- Hogan's old neighborhood. And as the experienced senior at the position, he's the leader that young players like Pat Miller, Brodrick Jenkins and Vance Roberts are looking to for guidance as they battle for playing time.
"They're picking my brain apart, and I tell them what I've seen, what been through," Tandy said. "Sometimes they'll listen to me more than they listen to [defensive backs] coach [David] Lockwood."
Tandy is a good player to follow. He has improved by leaps and bounds since his sophomore year, when the lasting image of his season was him getting repeatedly burned by Carlton Mitchell at South Florida. In short order, he went from a weak link on the defense to an anchor.
The reason for that, defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel says, is because Tandy -- a former quarterback in high school -- really studies the game.
"He's really smart, and he's a technician," Casteel said.
Tandy said he's always approached the game that way, paying extra attention in meetings and listening when other players get corrected so he doesn't make the same mistake they did. Casteel is so comfortable with Tandy now that he is taking him out of some reps this spring to get a closer look at the younger players.
This spring is offering plenty of work anyway. Going against Dana Holgorsen's offense every day, the cornerbacks get little time for rest.
"It seems like they throw the ball every play and they have like 15 guys on the field," Tandy said. "So you have to be perfect going against this offense. They line up fast, and you have to trust fundamentals and what you've been doing."
Luckily, what Keith Tandy has been doing for West Virginia is pretty good.