Football, Sports, WVU Sports

Long glad to not be limited in fall camp after missing spring drills

MORGANTOWN — This time a year ago, David Long was slowly jogging around the Steve Antoline Family Football Practice Field, as his teammates knocked each other around during camp. He was recovering from a torn meniscus and wasn’t healthy until the fifth game of the season.
Last spring, it was more of the same for Long, slowly running along the sidelines and working on the spin bike while he recovered from minor shoulder surgery.
During Sunday’s practice, the first in pads for West Virginia, Long was no longer sauntering the sideline. Instead, he was popping pads with his linebackers group as a full participant.
It’s been 17 months since the Mountaineers’ junior linebacker has been able to participate in camp, though it didn’t seem to hinder his play when it matters most last season.
In nine games, Long finished with 76 tackles, including 16 1/2 for loss, which earned him preseason accolades — except one maybe exception.
The Butkus Award, given to the nation’s best linebacker, did not have Long’s name listed when it was released in July.
“I smiled a little when I saw it, but you don’t have to be on those watch lists in order to win it,” Long said. “I’m just going to go out there and play how I know I can, and then everything should fall in place.”
While Long isn’t worried about preseason pub, he is concerned about maintaining a clean bill of health through camp, leading into the season-opener Sept. 1 against Tennessee in Charlotte, N.C.
The shoulder is back to 100 percent and there are no limitations at all for Long.
“It’s very exciting. It’s making me stay focused and to stay on top of my recovery so I can stay healthy,” he said.
Long’s ability to be on the field is crucial this camp, especially with the loss of Al-Rasheed Benton as the Mike linebacker. Long and Benton played the majority of the defensive snaps together the last two seasons, but Long isn’t worried and already has a feel for how Dylan Tonkery plays in the middle.
“Tonk and I gel together really cool, but we are still learning from each other, too,” Long said. “That stuff will all come toward the end of camp, which is another reason why it feels good to be out there. Al and Dylan are two different types of players, but it’s not gonna be any different with Tonk in that spot. He’s a hard worker and he wants to get better.”
Long, along with safety Dravon Askew-Henry, are the unquestioned leaders of a WVU defense that is criticized as the weak link of the team and what will keep it from being truly great.
Long wants no part of that.
“People say there’s not a lot of talent over here and stuff like that — they don’t know, they really don’t know what we’ve got over here,” he said. “They don’t know what they’re going to see throughout the season, but we know what we’re gonna do.”
With a healthy Long throughout camp and for Game 1, the defense can certainly get off on the right foot.