The linebacker position for the Mountaineers is set up to be the deepest position on the defense. A quick run down of the roster yields thirteen names listed on the depth chart. No, depth won't be an issue, so much as inexperience below the starting group could be.
Veterans return in sophomore Jared Barber and junior Doug Rigg, who look to man the inside Will (weak side) and Sam (strong side) positions respectively, but also expect to see Shaq Petteway and Isaiah Bruce to see plenty of action this year. The three deep also lists Taige Redman and Nick Kwiatkoski as those who are likely to see some playing time.
Will and Sam are linebacker positions that most of us are familiar with or have at least heard in the past. But what are these new Star and Buck positions and more importantly, who are going to fill those roles on the Mountaineer defense?
First, let's define the two new positions:
- Star Linebacker - hybrid safety style linebacker
- Buck Linebacker - hybrid rush end style linebacker, capable of playing as a down lineman (think Gary Stills from the Nehlen years)
Former safety Terence Garvin will anchor the Star position and should fill the roll quite easily as it's virtually the same position from the old 3-3-5, just with a new name. Backing up Garvin will be Wes Tonkery and Sean Walters. The much moved around Tyler Anderson looks to be the starting Buck, but look to see Josh Francis get plenty of snaps as well. Francis' specialty coming to WVU was rushing the quarterback from the linebacker position, something that he wasn't quite suited for in the 3-3-5, but now may get a chance to shine in a role perfectly suited to his skill sets. Chidoziem Ezemma is also listed on the three deep. Somewhat conspicuously absent from the initial depth chart is Jewone Snow, who apparently hasn't had the camp that the coaches hoped for.
As you can see, plenty of bodies are available to make substitutions, many likely are to be situational. You can also look for the linebackers to move around quite a bit in this defensive system. The potential is there for the linebacker unit to be the strong point of this defense despite the youth and inexperience. Again, facing the offenses of the Big 12, the youngsters will need to grow up fast.