BREAKOUT PLAYER WEEK 13 | Rasul Douglas

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FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2016, file photo, West Virginia cornerback Rasul Douglas (13) intercepts a pass attended for Kansas wide receiver Rasul Douglas (1) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, in Morgantown, W.Va. Douglas has three interceptions in his last two games, is tie for second nationally with six interceptions and he’ll be looking for more Saturday night when No. 10 West Virginia meets No. 8 Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson, File)

West Virginia cornerback Rasul Douglas (13) (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson, File)

Editor’s Note: Throughout the college football season we will provide profiles on breakout seniors. This week’s breakout player is West Virginia cornerback Rasul Douglas.

Rasul Douglas wasn’t supposed to be this good, this soon. But here we are, at the conclusion of his second year at West Virginia and he is already recognized as one of the best defensive backs in the Big 12 Conference. Very few people could have predicted this when Douglas was at Nassau Community College. But Douglas did, and the confidence, swagger and passion he pours into the game was on display each and every week of the Mountaineers’ regular season as he shut down passing attacks.

The now-heralded corner had a quiet beginning to his West Virginia career. He registered just eight total tackles in eleven games, though he did chip in with a pick and a forced fumble. Hints of his athleticism surfaced at times, but the adjustment period made it difficult for him to consistently get on the field. After another spring training and offseason, however, Douglas was more than ready to make an immediate impact in his final year of college football.

Douglas hit the ground running this fall, and his efforts were also reflected in WVU’s win column. The senior was part of a standout unit that limited the Missouri offense to just 282 yards passing and only 11 points.

The next week, he was at it again, only this time, instead of just making his presence felt through the air with two passes defensed, he made an impact on the ground as well. Douglas finished the day against Youngstown State with 11 total tackles, nine of them solo.

He upped the ante with his efforts against BYU, as he intercepted his first pass of the season and returned it 54 yards in dazzling fashion for the touchdown. That pick-six would end up being critical, as WVU held on for a 35-32 win to remain undefeated.

Soon, it was easy to tell the game had slowed down for Douglas. The next three weeks saw him register two interceptions (against Kansas State and TCU), 1.5 tackles for a loss, 10 solo tackles, and an 11-yard sack off a corner blitz Not surprisingly, all three games were wins, and West Virginia was off to a 6-0 start.

Most of all, Douglas was unfazed by adversity during the season. After West Virginia lost to the high-octane offense of Oklahoma State, the Mountaineers rebounded nicely by toppling Kansas, 48-21. After notching just one pass breakup the week before, Douglas took the opportunity to snag a pair of picks against the Jayhawks to put the game out of reach.

The performance would be the start of a streak for him, as he would go on to intercept a pass in each of the next three games, including a crucial turnover in a 24-20 victory over Texas. Even after all his performances, one would think that teams would eventually stop throwing his way, what with Douglas’s mastery of his 6-foot-2 frame and recovery speed. Yet, they kept testing him, and he delivered with interceptions against Oklahoma and Iowa State.

With the season winding down, West Virginia and Douglas were able to end their regular season on a high note with a 24-21 win over Baylor. No. 13 proved to be unlucky for the Bears, as Douglas led West Virginia’s pass defense in keeping Baylor largely in check with two interceptions and only allowing two receivers to have more than one catch.

With this kind of hot streak, West Virginia will be a tough out in their bowl game, and while Douglas will be playing his last game of college football, there is no question he will be excelling on Sundays at the next level. And there, he may very well be that good, that soon once again.

– David Chough
NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Analyst

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