MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia middle linebacker Brendan Ferns, eight months removed from tearing his ACL, started the final week of spring practice with a breakthrough.
“He’s starting to let loose a little bit and not being as cautious,” said defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. “He had his best day Sunday in the scrimmage. He made a tackle early and you could see him gain more confidence.
“He made some plays. He’s getting back where he was.”
Coaches projected Ferns as Al-Rasheed Benton’s backup last fall until the preseason camp injury forced the freshman to redshirt. The four-star recruit promptly obliterated his recovery timetable, and Gibson said “everybody was shocked that he was back full-go” by February.
Dante Bonamico, the 5-foot-8 walk-on safety from Bridgeport High, also made a splash in Sunday’s scrimmage.
“He was in on some turnovers, made a bunch of tackles,” Gibson said. “He’s the smallest guy out here but he’s flying around.”
Bonamico. who capped his prep career with a 1,300-yard rushing season and a third consecutive state championship at Bridgeport, joined the Mountaineers as a preferred walk-on in 2016.
Linebacker David Long singled out Bonamico for having a productive scrimmage though he mispronounced his name along the lines of “Guannamico”
Said Long: “You’ll see him Saturday at the spring game. He’s nice.”
Qualls and the pass rush
Junior college transfer Quondarius Qualls, currently working behind Long at Will linebacker, “is feeling his way through” his debut spring in Morgantown.
West Virginia coaches are eager to see the damage he can inflict off the edge after making 9.5 sacks last season at Northwest Mississippi Community College.
“He’s a strong kid, can run,” Gibson said. “He’s going to be a guy in our third-down package that we utilize in a lot of ways.“
Back for his second year as receivers coach, Tyron Carrier is enjoying life on Cheat Lake and recently did some fishing — from a jet ski.
“Hey, you do what you can,” he said. “I was just trying to get whatever would catch the hook.
“I wish they had catfish out there. Guess I’ll stick with the ponds of Houston or Louisiana to get some catfish.”
Wickline as “Leaping Larry”
Offensive line coach Joe Wickline has unveiled his pro wrestling films to players at previous schools, but West Virginia guard Kyle Bosch couldn’t wait.
So he set out to unearth the footage himself, enlisting the help of former fullback Michael Ferns, Brendan’s older brother.
“Ferns is a computer science major, so he probably was on the Dark Web until 2 in the morning,” Bosch said. “He ended up finding the film. It’s probably on 8 millimeter so I don’t know how he converted it to an IOS file.”
Bosch enjoyed evaluating Wickline’s performance as “Leaping Larry,” a wrestler who wore a blonde wig and a green elbow sleeve:
“Surprisingly athletic. He may look a little older and grayer now, but back in the day he was spry as a chicken. The third rope was where he called home.”
Tuesday live-drill lineups
Along wih the customary stretching and special-teams work, the media saw about 15 live plays during Tuesday’s practice.
Working with the first-team offense were quarterback Will Grier, running back Justin Crawford, receivers Gary Jennings, Ricky Rogers and David Sills. The offensive line from right to left featured Colton McKivitz, Grant Lingafelter, Matt Jones, Kyle Bosch and Josh Sills.
The defense featured Adam Shuler and Reese Donahue at defensive ends around nose guard Xavier Pegues. The linebackers featured Hodari Christian at Sam (newly relocated from the middle) along with Benton and Long. Projected Sam starter Xavier Preston wasn’t spotted at practice.
With Kyzir White also missing, Marvin Gross played Spur safety, Toyous Avery started at Bandit and JoVanni Stewart worked at free safety. The top corners were Hakeem Bailey and Elijah Battle.