With the spring pactice in full-swing, we continue to take a look at the way the 2013 WVU football depth chart will look. Today, we keep things rolling along with one of the most intriguing areas of the depth chart for 2013: the linebackers.
Much of the Mountaineers struggles on the defensive side of the football in 2012 can be attributed to a lack of pass rush off the edges from the WVU linebacking corps. Seniors Josh Francis and Terence Garvin played well last season, but were really not much of a pass rushing duo. Newly appointed defensive coordinator Patterson will be trying to identify a couple of guys who can bring some heat off of the edges this season.
Departures: OLB Josh Francis and OLB Terence Garvin
Returning: ILB Isaiah Bruce, OLB Jewone Snow, OLB West Tonkery, OLB Shaq Petteway, ILB Nick Kwiatkoski, ILB Taige Redman, ILB Doug Rigg, ILB Troy Gloster, OLB Sean Walters, OLB Garrett Hope, OLB Justin Arndt, and OLB Tyler Anderson
Recruits: OLB Hodari Christian, ILB Al-Rasheed Benton, ILB Elijah Wellman, ILB Darrien Howard, OLB Isaac McDonald, OLB D’Vante Henry, and OLB Brandon Golson
The Mountaineers were not really hit hard by graduation, losing only starters Francis and Garvin. Yet, by the same token, the Mountaineers do not have a ton of experience returning at outside linebacker. Wes Tonkery and Shaq Petteway saw the most action of the returning players, combining for 52 tackles this past season (most coming via special teams).
As far as inside linebacker goes, the Mountaineers are going to be absolutely stacked this season. Freshman sensation Isaiah Bruce (now a sophomore) was a dominant force with 94 tackles, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Bruce is expected to lead the linebacking corps, if not the whole defense this season. Senior Doug Rigg will likely resume his starting role along side Bruce this season but will be tested by a really deep inside linebacker recruiting class.
BUCK (OLB): Brandon Golson, JR, 6’2″ 225 lbs; D’Vante Henry, JR, 6’5″ 205 lbs; Garrett Hope, SO, 6’3″ 245 lbs
STAR (OLB): Shaq Petteway, JR, 6’0″ 200 lbs; Hodari Christian, FR, 6’1″ 210 lbs; Wes Tonkery, r-JR, 6’2″ 222 lbs
SAM (ILB): Isaiah Bruce, r-SO, 6’1″ 231 lbs; Nick Kwiatkoski, r-SO, 6’2″ 232 lbs; Al-Rasheed Benton, FR, 6’2″ 230 lbs
WILL (ILB): Doug Rigg, SR, 6’1″ 237 lbs; Jared Barber, JR, 6’0″ 233 lbs; Darrien Howad, FR, 6’1″ 260 lbs
Realistically, outside of Isaiah Bruce, all of the starting spots in the linebacking corps are up for grabs. Doug Rigg, who started 9 games at inside linebacker this past season, will likely reclaim his starting job for his senior season but will give way to Jared Barber in passing situations just as he did this past season.
Big inside linebacker recruits Benton and Howard are more than likely going to receive redshirts in their first season in Morgantown. As talented as they are, coach Patterson has a very crowded group at inside linebacker and will favor saving the eligibility of these two future stars.
At outside linebacker, Petteway showed flashes of greatness this past season but must prove in camp that he can be a consistent pass rushing threat. He will have to hold off JUCO recruits Golson and Henry for playing time as well as incoming freshman talent Christian.
As it stands today, we like Petteway to secure one of the starting outside gigs while Golson and Henry are also likely starters. We give Golson the nod in the coin flip for BUCK starter.
No matter who starts at each spot this season, expect all of these players to see plenty of time in the various defensive sets that coach Patterson will employ this year.
For more on the Way Too Early Depth Chart series: