Holgorsen Gets Defensive With Team’s LBs

Long, Tonkery represent the unit’s experience

MORGANTOWN – When it comes to the crop of linebackers at West Virginia University this upcoming, it’s best described as a ‘glass half-empty’ situation.

“Are you saying we are going to be bad at linebacker,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen replied when asked about his team’s lack of experience and depth at the position. “It sounds like you are saying we aren’t going to be very good.

“You start with (redshirt junior) David Long (Jr). We didn’t have him a year ago at this time. So, having him in camp has elevated our defense, in general. He was our defensive MVP last year pretty much. Having him is an awesome start. He looks as good as he ever has, it makes a whole lot of a difference. We can’t block him, and it gets frustrating to get things drawn out to where he’s accounted for, and he still likes to play. That’s good news for our football team.

“(Redshirt sophomore Dylan) Tonkery looks really good. He’s another starter that we have in position that’s coming back from having a whole lot of experience. Then, we have a whole lot of young guys on top of that. (Redshirt sophomore) Charlie Benton’s looked good, (redshirt freshman) Exree Loe has looked good. You’ve got some guys on the sidelines that’ll come back at some point this year that will give us some help as well.

The backups are inexperienced, and our job is to not only get the starters to play at a high level, but to have the backups be able to go in and hold things together as well. I think we’re on our way to doing that.”

The linebackers ‘on the sideline’ are St. Clairsville native Brendan Ferns — a redshirt sophomore — and senior Quondarius Qualls.

But, it could be late October or even early November before they get the medical clearance to get back onto the field.

Meanwhile defensive coordinator Tony Gibson will have to make do with redshirt junior Shea Campbell, redshirt sophomore Zach Sandwisch and junior Adam Hensley, who have a combined 20 games of playing experience and those all belong to Hensley.

“We’re working on it,” Gibson said. “Am I comfortable right now? No. I like where we’re at, obviously, with David (Long Jr.) and Tonk. Charlie Benton has to step it up a little bit. (Redshirt junior linebacker) Shea Campbell, (redshirt sophomore linebacker Zach) Sandwisch, (junior linebacker Adam) Hensley, (freshman linebacker Josh) Chandler – those are all guys who are willing bodies, and we’ll be able to throw them in there and get some good reps from them.”

Holgorsen closed the media conference discussing his team’s health.

“Two things, two,” Holgorsen said. “Injuries – there are two I want to tell you about. The injury thing, I told you I’d tell you if they’re out-out-out. (Freshman wide receiver) Dillon Spalding had surgery on his ankle, he’s out for the year. (Freshman tight end/fullback) Mike O’Laughlin had surgery on his knee, so he’s out for the year as well. Those two guys, we didn’t know what we were getting with them. They are good kids, they’ll be back here probably in two days. They went home and had surgery, and they’ll be back in two days and enroll into school. Other than that, we’re in pretty good shape.”

West Virginia opens classes on Wednesday.

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