By TONY VIOLA
MORGANTOWN - It has been a long climb back to the top for Terrell Chestnut.
The West Virginia redshirt junior might have just earned the second starting cornerback job in a way neither he or Coach Dana Holgorsen would have liked.
Redshirt senior Ishmael ''Icky'' Banks could be academically ineligible this season, according to a report released Wednesday afternoon.
If true, this has the potential to be a major blow to a defensive secondary that looked poised to have a bounce-back season after the Mountaineers allowed 263.3 passing yards per game and finished 106th overall in pass defense a season ago.
Banks has played in 36 career games with 16 starts, including all 12 last season. His first career interception helped jump-start West Virginia's upset victory against Oklahoma State as he picked off a J.W. Walsh pass and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown.
Banks was in a battle to keep his starting spot opposite sophomore Daryl Worley with Chestnut and redshirt senior Travis Bell.
Chestnut has had an injury-riddled career thus far at West Virginia.
A four-star recruit out of Pottstown, Pa., Chestnut was recovering from shoulder surgery after he suffered a torn labrum in high school when he arrived in Morgantown.
His true freshman season did not last long as he re-injured the shoulder during preseason camp, forcing him to redshirt.
Chestnut missed the first seven games of his redshirt sophomore season before coming on strong in the final six, making starts in three of the last four games, including the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
It was in the Mountaineers' loss to Syracuse in New York that Chestnut blew out his knee, his third injury in as many years.
''I'm finally feeling healthy,'' Chestnut said during preseason camp. ''I'm doing very well. I'm able to take reps with everybody. I'm ready and I'm excited.
''Being injured made me more mentally tough. I had to go through a lot of things and overcome things as well. That's what pulls me through.''
Chestnut played in 10 games last season, mostly on special teams.
If Chestnut is named the starter, it likely means Bell would be used as the team's nickel corner which would leave the fourth corner spot up for grabs.
''There are a lot of great players here, and a lot of people who can make plays,'' Chestnut said. ''You see it every day at practice. Every day, somebody different stands up. That's big for the team.''
Thompson Lands on Watch List
Junior receiver Jordy Thompson was named to the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award watch list Wednesday.
Nominees for the award, given to the top offensive player in Division-I football, must be either from Texas, graduated from a Texas high school, or play at a junior college for a four-year college in Texas.
Thompson, a native of Katy, Texas, recorded 23 receptions for 263 yards in his first two seasons at West Virginia.
The list, which included 43 student-athletes, will be narrowed down to 16 semifinalists in November.