West Virginia’s defense has seen steady improvement as the seasons have past. The Mountaineers’ defense should get even more of a boost as redshirt senior linebacker Jared Barber is expected to make his return to the field this season.
Barber who was injured in a game against Texas in 2013 missed all of last season. In 2012, Barber played in 10 games, starting in seven of them. He finished 2012 as West Virginia’s third-leading tackler with 71 tackles. He amassed five tackles for losses, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and had two pass breakups.
Sep 28, 2013; Morgantown, WV, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys running back Jeremy Smith (31) is tackled by West Virginia Mountaineers linebacker Jared Barber (33) and defensive lineman Will Clarke (98) during the first half at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
In 2013, Barber accumulated 14 total tackles, eight of them solo. Barber has proven to be a solid linebacker — creating havoc at the line scrimmage. At 6-foot, 234 pound, Barber is athletic enough to provide help in stuffing the run and pass coverage.
It was discouraging to see the junior linebacker go down with an ACL tear in 2013. He was primary player in an improving defense. His absents was felt in the Mountaineers’ final two regular season games.
Rebounding from an ACL tear is no easy task. Plenty of athletes have seen their careers derailed by an ACL tear. It’s hard to return to 100 percent, but not impossible.
The linebacker position will be exceptionally deep this season for West Virginia as 10 letter winners will suit up again, five of them having starting experience. Along with Barber, Nick Kwiatkowski, Isiah Bruce and Shaq Pittaway are notable players that hope to make an impact this season.
Redshirt senior Pettaway returned last season from injury and had a very productive 2013. He recorded 39 tackles, good for seventh best on the team — 32 of them were solo, he had one sack and four tackles for loss of yards. Pettaway has also made significant plays while on special teams, making him a useful utility player when needed.
Kwiatkowski is also redshirt senior. He will be used at the Sam linebacker position after starting at the Mike all of last season. He was the team’s leading tackler with 103 in 2014. He recorded 71 solo stops and a team-high 11.5 tackles for loss. He also had one sack assist.
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Kwiatkowski will surely be a force to be had for the Mountaineers in 2015 after putting up bulging numbers last season.
Bruce has played in 37 games as a Mountaineer, including 20 starts. He has 15 tackles, 3.5 for loss. While his numbers aren’t jarring, he is expected to do big things this coming season.
Barber, will be asked to fill the shoes of Wes Tonkery who started in Barber’s place while he was out. Tonkery was very resourceful and provided the Mountaineers with excellent play last season.
Barber along with these players and others will surely add depth and productivity to Gibson’s defense. The experience of this defense will be top-notch, giving Gibson the ability to work with seasoned players and really implement a strong defensive mindsets and schemes.