Ben Queen/WVMetroNews

West Virginia senior Wes Tonkery (37) has been working as the starter at Will linebacker as Brandon Golson rehabs a shoulder injury.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Through eight days of preseason camp, West Virginia has operated without injured Will linebacker Brandon Golson.

Yet through those eight days, Golson’s backup has been the surprise of camp.

Fifth-year senior Wes Tonkery, whose only college start came in the Orange Bowl that capped the 2011 season, has been thriving with the first-team defense. It’s essentially a temporary promotion until Golson recovers from shoulder surgery, yet Tonkery has capitalized on the opportunity.

Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson singled out the Bridgeport High product this week as having the best camp of any defensive player, and head coach Dana Holgorsen seconded the praise Thursday.

“That’s nice to hear,” Tonkery said Friday. “It backs up all the things you’ve been working for all summer and winter long.”

This time last year, it was Tonkery coping with a weak shoulder. He suffered the injury during two-a-days and was unable to fully heal amidst the full-contact practices that typically define camp.

“My shoulder popped out almost every week,” he said.

Once the regular season arrived, Tonkery primarily served as a special-teamer. Even that role ceased the night of Oct. 5 in Waco, when he mysteriously fractured his left thumb against Baylor and was shut down for the season.

“I’ve watched the replay a few times and I’m still not sure how it happened,” he said. “I was hurt on my left hand and my right shoulder, so they figured I was done.”

Sidelined for the final six games and unsure where he stood in West Virginia’s future plans, Tonkery used the time off “to re-evaluate myself.” After thumb surgery, he was back to conditioning work, aiming to make his senior season his best yet.

His early camp performances indicate he’s on track. Even with Golson expected to regain the starting spot soon, Tonkery could be counted on for depth.

“It’s been good, because it showed that I didn’t take a step back,” said Tonkery, a lifelong Mountaineers fan who’s almost 40 pounds heavier than when arrived in 2010 as a 186-pound safety.

“Watching this team your whole life and being a part of it, and now it’s my senior year,” he said. “It’s hard to believe it has gone by so fast.”

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  • Dave

    Larry is just ignorant.

  • Larry

    Nice to see at least one player from the state who gets to see the field in an actual game once in a while.

    • VaultHunter

      Probably the dumbest comment I have ever read on this site.

    • mineralcounty

      Cody Clay

      • Larry

        Who's he?

        • Tyrone

          Who are you ? If you do not know who Cody Clay is you are not a fan of this team ... i think you are a D..A..

          • Mister Man

            Larry doesn't remember Cody because he isn't a WVU fan.

          • Larry

            Sorry, I looked up his stats, and he has been a huge part of the offense. In 2 years he has 11 receptions for just over 100 yards, and a td, not sure why I didn't remember him.

  • shepherd

    The kid is a football player....needs to be on the field alot this year.

  • any major dude

    Thats high praise from Tony Gibson. If you persevere, good things will come. Wes should provide much needed depth if nothing else, and you never know.

  • robert

    Wes Tonkery is a testament to what is right about college athletics. Have a great year, Wes.

  • spiralninja

    It's always a good thing when our local young men get some of the spotlight, are able to bounce back from injury and make a difference. Kudos to you, Wes. Keep fighting! Looking forward to seeing you on the field.