The Mountaineers will get some much-needed depth at linebacker this Saturday against TCU. Quondarious Qualls, Brendan Ferns and Dylan Tonkery are all going to play this week.
They all practiced last week to get ready to come back. “They’re available this week” said defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “We kind of knew last week was just getting back into it. Didn’t travel those guys (Quall, Ferns). This week they’re in the plan. We’re full speed ahead. Good to get some guys back.”
Tony did add that Tonkery traveled and dressed for Texas.
Qualls was primarily used on special teams last season. Nonetheless, he accumulated 10 tackles and a half of a sack. He was at the top of the depth chart at strong side linebacker (SAM) in spring practice before tearing his ACL.
Ferns suffered his second ACL tear to the same knee in two years. He did it in fall camp in 2016 and then again in spring practice about two weeks after Qualls tore his. Ferns appeared in four games last season at middle linebacker (MIKE). During that period, he racked up 10 tackles, nine of them were solo before he had a season ending shoulder injury.
Tonkery has been going through a groin injury since coming out of the Kansas game and hasn’t seen the field since. The starting MIKE linebacker has 22 tackles, 6 tackles for a loss and a sack on the season.
Despite the lack of depth at linebacker, defensive coordinator Tony Gibson has done a great job of putting guys in position to make plays. Moving safety Jovanni Stewart down to the SAM linebacker position after Charlie Benton’s season ended with a knee injury, has paid off dividends and Morgantown native Shea Campbell has filled in nicely at the MIKE spot.
“It will give our guys that play every snap a breather.” Explained Gibson. “We’re not going to change scheme or do anything different. Those guys are at Mike linebacker and SAM linebacker which adds some depth, which is needed.”