MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s football team will continue turning to the next man standing — provided that there is anybody left to stand.
Bandit linebacker Quondarius Qualls is the latest Mountaineer to be shelved for the season, coach Neal Brown announced on Tuesday. Qualls joins fellow bandit VanDarius Cowan with a season-ending injury, leaving the position in the hands of repurposed Mike linebacker Dylan Tonkery and true freshman Jared Bartlett.
Bartlett made his collegiate debut at Baylor and made a good first impression.
“Bartlett did a great job. He’s extremely athletic and explosive,” said defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. “We didn’t know he would play that hard. He only had one play where he got a little flustered. The reason he was signed here was what you saw in the game.”
As a fifth-year senior, Qualls would only be able to get an additional year of eligibility if he receives an NCAA waiver.
Qualls has 22 tackles and two sacks this season.
Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, the injury list does not end with Qualls. Not even close.
Receiver Sean Ryan will miss his fourth-straight game. He’s been out with an injury since the Texas game, though Brown says he is looking good in non-contact drills. He’ll likely be joined by fellow starter T.J. Simmons, who Brown deemed unlikely to play against Texas Tech after missing the second half of the Baylor game with an undisclosed injury.
“I’m not saying he’s out,” Brown said of Simmons. “But he’s doubtful.”
Simmons is West Virginia’s leading receiver by yardage, averaging 51.1 yards per game and 13.2 yards per catch. He has a team-high four touchdowns.
Kicker Evan Staley is also on Brown’s doubtful list. Staley couldn’t go against Baylor because of a strained leg muscle. Redshirt freshman Casey Legg is filling in for him.
Right guard Chase Behrndt left the Baylor game early with an injury of his own. Brown was more optimistic but still non-committal about Behrdnt, saying, “We’ll see how he progresses this week.”
Linebacker Josh Chandler, who left the Oklahoma game with an injury, will be re-evaluated at the end of the week.
Brown said that running back Kennedy McKoy and safety Noah Guzman are both questionable, but he’s hopeful both will be able to play by Saturday. Guzman had a team-high 11 tackles in his first career start before leaving with a double-whammy. On a headfirst collision initiated by Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer, Guzman apparently suffered both a minor concussion and an ankle sprain.
“Obviously you take every precaution with the trainers, but I don’t think he’s had any side effects,” Koenning said of Guzman’s blow to the head. “I think the ankle’s more of an issue. Ankles are one of those things that don’t heal fast. That part of it is more likely to hinder what we can do this week.”
On a more optimistic front, Brown said tight end Jovani Haskins will be back in the lineup this week. Haskins missed the Baylor game with what Brown described as a core injury.
Brown also said that cornerback Dreshun Miller, who is still recovering from a preseason camp injury, will miss this week but is getting closer to making his return to the field.