Journey Continues for West Virginia’s Long
MORGANTOWN — The journey has had its bumps, but West Virginia University redshirt junior-to-be David Long Jr. is ready to show the talent which made him an Associated Press All-Ohio Division II honorable mention selection and a player which veteran defensive coordinator Tony Gibson refers to as ‘a difference maker.’
“I’m good,” Long said. “I had to get cleared, but I’ve been cleared for all activities and I’m 100 percent right now.”
Good news for WVU fans who witnessed the 225-pounder post a career-high 11 tackles, including a career-high eight assisted tackles and one tackle for loss in a 31-14 loss to Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl as a redshirt freshman.
A knee injury suffered in the preseason, however, kept the Winton Woods High School graduate on the sidelines for West Virginia’s first four games last season.
“Rehabs are going good. I’m getting stronger every week,” Long said. “I’m just trying to stay healthy, so I can be out there with my team. Definitely. That’s all I do is play football. Any chance I can get to play football I’m going to take it. It was tough for me, but I’m back now.
“It was long because I had just gotten done sitting out the first four games of the season. It was really, just hurting mentally. I had a good support system. People around me that just kept my head on straight.”
And, WVU’s Defensive Player of the Year made the most of his return.
The third-leading tackler with 76 stops, including 56 solo tackles, four sacks, a team-leading 16.5 tackles for loss, four pass breakups and a fumble recovery helped him earn ProFootballFocus All-American Second Team honors as well as All-Big 12 Conference First Team (ESPN.com), Second Team (Athlon Sports) and Honorable Mention (Coaches).
But, then came yet another injury which required surgery and forced Long back to the sideline during the spring. And, another trip to rehab.
“It’s all good. I have to take it easy on like pulling stuff, but I’m ready to get going,” Long said. “Of course, I can’t wait for camp. Get out there with these guys. It’s hard. Like every other year, it’s hard. Defense as a whole is working at getting it right.
“We’ve added two new guys and that’s going to take time. I’m pretty sure we’re going to get it right.
“I’m way more familiar with the defense. Athletically, I’m faster now. Getting stronger and I’m trying to put on some more weight right now. It’s definitely going to take time, but I’ll get it right before the season.”
Preseason magazines like Athlon Sports and Phil Steele understand the importance of WVU’s Will linebacker as both mentioned Long on their All-Big 12 First Team defense.
“Stay healthy number one,” Long said. “Just go out there and do what I know what I can do. Just bring the defense up. I’m one of those older guys on the ‘d’ that’s had to get these guys together so I’m pretty sure we’re going to get that done.”
If Long can become that playmaker, the defense — which every preseason analyst points-to as the Mountaineers’ biggest weakness — then West Virginia could make a legitimate run at its first Big 12 title.
“Of course, personally, like two years ago, we took it personally,” Long said when asked about the preseason picks. “A lot of people gone, but we’ve got a lot of people back. We just going to let that air out and go out there and play.
“We just need to win and our goal as a defense is to just win. We know what they are saying, but they don’t know what is going to happen on this side of the ball. But, we know. We know what we’ve got to do. We’ve got players with talent. We’ve got talent like crazy. We just need to get gelled together. That’s pretty much it.”