MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Sophomore linebacker David Long, one of four returning starters on West Virginia’s rebuilding defense, is expected to miss the nonconference portion of the upcoming season after suffering a knee injury.
Sources told MetroNews that Long injured his meniscus in June during conditioning sessions, though coaches have declined comment.
According to a report Wednesday from Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman, Long could be sidelined for the first month of the season, putting him on a timetable to return by the Oct. 7 game at TCU.
With West Virginia gearing for a titanic season opener against former Big East rival Virginia Tech, Long’s absence will force some shuffling by defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, who aims to make his outside linebackers interchangeable.
Long’s backup at the Will spot this spring was redshirt freshman Dylan Tonkery, a converted safety who starred at Bridgeport High. Behind Tonkery was junior college transfer Quondarius Qualls, an early enrollee who drew raves on signing day before having the kind of inconsistent spring common among newcomers.
Along with the option of having Sam backup Adam Hensley flip sides, Gibson could take the best-player-available approach by shifting former blue-chip recruit Brendan Ferns from the inside Mike. Ferns was on pace to be a key part of the linebacker rotation last year before tearing an ACL in camp.
The potential downside of moving Ferns to Will is the strain it casts upon senior Al-Rasheed Benton, who would once again be asked to play almost every snap in the middle. Gibson fretted over that situation last season, but for the opening month of ths one, it could be manageable.
A scout-team terror while redshirting in 2015, Long started the final 10 games last season and made 65 tackles, sixth-most on the team. He made 4.5 tackles behind the line, including two sacks, recorded two hurries and forced a fumble.
Long joined Benton and Spur safety Kyzir White as West Virginia’s only returning defensive starters from 2016, with free safety Dravon Askew-Henry back after missing 2016 with an ACL tear.