Football, WVU Sports

Long missing WVU spring camp but fulfilling other roles

David Long Jr.

MORGANTOWN — During a spring football camp where there will be a lot of transition at one position, usually you would want your best returnee there to help solidify the group a little more.

WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen doesn’t feel that way about the linebackers and David Long.

Long is rehabbing a shoulder injury that will keep him out all of spring practice, but Holgorsen knows what the rising redshirt-junior linebacker can bring to the table.

The only person the coach feels bad for is defensive lineman Lamonte McDougle.

“The worst thing in the world that happened to Lamonte McDougle was having shoulder surgery the same day as David Long,” Holgorsen said. “They rehab together like every day, and David is an absolute machine, and Lamonte is young and big, so he struggles every day.”

Long, a 5-foot-11, 221-pound “Will” linebacker, may not be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in “Terminator,” but he proved that he can rise again when it looked like he was knocked out.

Following knee surgery last summer, Long missed the first month of the regular season. He made his debut in early October, at TCU, but the coaching staff didn’t know how long it would take for him to knock off the rust.

In the first quarter, Long swatted two passes back at Horned Frogs quarterback Kenny Hill with an explosiveness off the edge that the coaching staff loved.

He finished the season with 76 tackles — 16 1/2 for loss — despite missing four games.

Long proved he can overcome an injury, so while missing spring camp is disappointing, he’s taken over a role left by Al-Rasheed Benton — leader.

While he may not be as vocal as Benton was, Long has the experience and track record to fill the void, especially with an inexperienced unit surrounding him.

“They’re still young,” he said. “They are making the mistakes that are expected, honestly. But, they are coming along, getting better as they go and moving faster. They have to build on it and be consistent.”

While Long has the clamps on the Will spot, the rest of the corps did some moving around for spring practice. Dylan Tonkery, who originally replaced Long while he was injured last season, moved to “Sam” to finish the year.

Now, Tonkery moves to “Mike” to replace Benton.

Sam is an open competition and the backup spots for all three positions are up in the air.

“We have a few position changes, and the players are starting to come into their own with those changes,” Long said. “The new players, (Charlie) Benton and Josh (Chandler), have started to step up. It is still early for them, but they still have to learn. We still haven’t gone full-go yet, so there are still changes to be made.”

The Mountaineers retook the field March 20, after having over a week off for spring break.

There are 2 1/2 weeks left in spring camp, culminating with the Gold-Blue game, on April 7.