All West Virginia linebackers available to play for first time this season

MORGANTOWN — It’s officially official. For the first time this season, West Virginia will have its full complement of linebackers available to play in a game when the Mountaineers host TCU this Saturday.

Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said senior Quandarius Qualls and sophomore Brendan Ferns will both be ready to play this week. The duo returned to practice last week, but ultimately did not make the trip to Texas. Both had been out since tearing knee ligaments in separate spring practice injuries.

“We kind of knew last week was just getting them back into it,” Gibson said. “We didn’t travel them. This week, they’re in the plans. It’s full speed ahead.”

Sophomore Dylan Tonkery, who dressed out against the Longhorns but ultimately did

not play, is also expected to contribute.

Ferns and Tonkery give the Mountaineers needed depth at middle linebacker, where backup Shea Campbell was forced to do yeoman’s work the last three games. Tonkery began the year as West Virginia’s starter at

the position with Ferns out of commission.

“We need them all,” Gibson said. “Shea Campbell doesn’t need to be playing 77 snaps in a game. We just need to keep rolling guys and keep them healthy.”

The speedy Qualls’ presence behind JoVanni Stewart should give a boost to West Virginia’s pass rush. The Mountaineers are the middle of the pack in the Big 12 with 17 sacks.

Being a graduate transfer, senior defensive tackle Jabril Robinson has yet to play with Ferns or Qualls. But he heard enough to be excited to see what they will add to West Virginia’s defensive mix.

“I heard about Qualls’ record of 21 miles per hour on a kickoff. And Ferns, I hear he’s a great player as far as knowledge-wise, he knows how to play the game,” Robinson said. “I’ve never been able to actually see them in action in a game. But I’ll take anybody’s word. We need as many people as we have to make it to where we want to make it to.”

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