Junior linebacker David Long leaving West Virginia for NFL

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Armed with a degree and a Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award, West Virginia junior linebacker David Long is entering the NFL draft.

He made the announcement Sunday by tweeting, “I will continue to represent great state and program wherever I go.”

Long matched West Virginia’s single-season record with 19 tackles for loss as a junior.

The Cincinnati native, who signed with the Mountaineers in 2015 as a Rivals three-star prospect, emerged as a scout-team terror during his redshirt season before becoming a three-year starter on Tony Gibson’s defense.

Gibson told MetroNews and The Dominion Post after Friday night’s loss to Syracuse in the Camping World Bowl that he had met with Long’s family and was supportive of whatever decision the Butkus semifinalist made.

“We had a great discussion. Everything was on the table — good and bad, positive and negative,” Gibson said. “Whatever he decides to do, he’s done everything asked of him here.

“I love David Long like he was my own son. If he comes back, obviously, he’ll have another great year. And if not, I’m going to hug him, tell him I love him and ‘Go give it your best.’”

Across 33 college games. Long made 246 tackles, 39.5 TFLs and 12.5 sacks.

Listed at 5-11 and 222 pounds, the undersized Long could become a downhill safety in the NFL.

Despite Long’s departure, West Virginia’s linebacking could become a strength next season with Charlie Benton, Quondarius Qualls, Brendan Ferns and Dylan Tonkery returning from injuries. Alabama transfer Vandarius Cowan also becomes eligible and  Josh Chandler anticipates making a leap as a sophomore.

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