The 2017 Mountaineer football profile series continues with defensive players this week. We’ll now shine the spotlight on the (arguably) the most anticipated on the West Virginia roster that has yet to debut- Brendan Ferns.
Brendan Ferns, LB, #7
Year: Freshman (redshirt)
Hometown: St. Clairsville, Ohio
High School: St. Clairsville High School
How he got to Morgantown
Few defensive players in recent memory have arrived in Morgantown with more fanfare than the Ohio product and brother of former Mountaineer fullback, Michael. Ferns finished his high school career on as prestigious an arc as there is: Army All-America selection, USA Today All-Ohio first team, consensus four star rating, an ESPN 300 ranking and offers from virtually every P5 program in the country from Alabama to Penn State to Georgia to Notre Dame.
At the home stretch of his recruitment, Ferns had narrowed his list down to West Virginia and Penn State, with both schools seemingly tied for the standout two-way player’s services up until the very end. Ultimately, however, West Virginia won the bid based on several factors including his brother already wearing the old gold and blue and that his desired major was offered on campus in Morgantown. To say that locking up Ferns’ commitment was a recruiting coup would be a drastic understatement.
The plan in 2016 was to get Ferns field ready by week one against Missouri where he likely would have plugged in as a starter at MIKE or, at the very least, played significant snaps behind Al-Rasheed Benton. Then life happened and before Ferns could play a regular season snap for the Mountaineers, he was forced to deal with rehabbing a torn ACL.
Ravenous as the injury bug has been in Morgantown in recent years, Dana’s Holgorsen’s players seem to be equally, if not more, resilient. Brendan Ferns has bounced back in the best possible way over the course of the last year and looks like a starting linebacker in Tony Gibson’s 3-3-5. While Benton, the grizzled veteran looks to have the starting MIKE spot locked down at the moment, Ferns is expected to not only spell him at the MIKE, but could very realistically step in at either of the other two outside linebacker positions, as well. Such is the nature of depth at position and the talent Ferns
Ferns’ M.O., and what made him such a coveted prospect in the first place, is his versatility. He’s not just a run-stopper who can get downhill in a hurry, he’s also capable of dropping back in coverage and running with different body-types. You simply can’t place a known value on that type of potential impact, especially when the unit in question lost more than half of its starters after a season when it ranked in the top three in total defense in the Big 12. What Ferns needs is a green light and on Sunday, September 3rd, Tony Gibson will give him just that. The rest of us will need only sit back and watch.
Ferns will undergo trial-by-fire in 2017. There are no two ways about it. The Mountaineer defense will be looking to compensate for David Long’s absence in the first few weeks and Brendan Ferns will likely be the key cog to make sure the defense can function properly during this phase. Luckily, Virginia Tech, who is missing its three best offensive players from last season and starts a redshirt freshman under center, will provide an excellent proving ground for #7.
If Ferns can put together a stellar outing against the Hokies, he’ll have two weeks to refine his trade against G5 opponents Delware State and ECU before a healthy David Long returns to complete Tony Gibson’s linebacker corps. With an effective push along the front three and a secondary anchored by arguably the best safety duo in the nation in Dravon Askey-Henry and Kyzir White, Ferns will have free reign at multiple linebacker positions to cause havoc out of odd looks and blitzes disguised to come from nowhere. Freshman All-American accolades are not out of the question and, with Benton leaving the program after 2017, I would be shocked if the MIKE spot isn’t locked down by the St. Clairsville native for years to come.
The 2017 Mountaineer profile series will continue to feature defensive players throughout the week.