Football, Sports, WVU Sports

West Virginia linebacker Dylan Tonkery looking for consistency

It’s been a mixed bag for sophomore Dylan Tonkery in the two games since necessity forced him to be West Virginia’s starting middle linebacker in 2018.

Against Tennessee, Tonkery made the WVU coaching staff look ingenious for the decision to move him from the outside after knee injuries felled Quandarius Qualls and Brendan Ferns this spring. He was everywhere against the Vols, finishing the game with eight tackles, including two solos and 1.5 tackles for loss.

Surprisingly, that level of production dropped off considerably against Youngstown State. Tonkery didn’t have a single stop against the Penguins. The only evidence he was on the field was a pass breakup.

“I was kind of disappointed in his game Saturday night,” a blunt Tony Gibson, Mountaineers defensive coordinator  noted. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a middle linebacker not have a tackle.”

That’s not to say Tonkery made no contribution. Gibson said there are several plays where he held his assignment and forced the ball carrier into the arms of another Mountaineer tackler. The defensive coordinator would just like to see the cornerstone player of the defense finish more plays.

“He knocks the ball out a lot to (redshirt junior linebacker) David (Long Jr.) and to (junior safety) JoVanni (Stewart) and to our safeties,” Gibson said. “But he has to start being more productive.”

In Tonkery’s defense, a lot of what Youngstown State did offensively consisted of attacking the WVU defense in places where Tonkery wasn’t present.

“We played a lot of base,” Gibson said. “And their run schemes against us were about targeting certain parts of our defense where they wanted to go with the ball.”

That said, film review indicated that there were a couple of plays Tonkery could have made that he didn’t. Tackle totals will vary depending on what the opposing offense has up its sleeve, but Gibson wants to make sure Tonkery does clean up whatever chances he gets.

“I’m not concerned, but he missed a couple of tackles, that hurt us Saturday night, that he needs to make,” Gibson said. “He has to get better with that.”

He has faith the Bridgeport graduate will be up to the task. He’ll just have to wait an extra week to put it into action against Kansas State’s power offense.