MORGANTOWN — Injuries have taken their toll on West Virginia this season and the Mountaineers will again be down several key players when they take on Houston this Thursday (7 p.m./FS1).
Safety Aubrey Burks, who had to be carted off the field in the team’s last game against TCU and was kept in a hospital overnight, is questionable for Thursday, head coach Neal Brown announced Monday.
WVU’s safeties Thursday will be Anthony Wilson, who has started all five games, and Marcis Floyd, who returned from his own injury two games ago.
“We’ve got some flexibility back there,” Brown said. “Malachi (Ruffin) has played and started some games at safety. We’ve used Jaboly Spells in some of our nickel packages, he’s played well. Avery Wilcox would be the fourth safety and then (freshman) Josiah Jackson.”
Left tackle Wyatt Milum, who was poked in the eye against the Horned Frogs, is also questionable and will be a game-time decision.
Left guard Tomas Rimac has been ruled out with an injury he also suffered against TCU.
“As far as how long he’ll be out, I’m not sure yet,” Brown said of Rimac. “He’ll be able to return (this season), but he won’t play this week.”
When Rimac went down against the Horned Frogs, starting right guard Brandon Yates moved to left guard and Ja’Quay Hubbard was inserted at right guard. Morgantown High School product Nick Malone replaced Milum at left tackle and will start if Milum cannot go on Thursday.
“Ja’Quay Hubbard has had an extensive amount of playing time, he started for us some last year,” offensive coordinator Chad Scott said. “Nick Malone has done a lot of work, he’s played a lot of ball. Different players, but in terms of schematics, we’re not changing anything schematically. Those guys have got to be able to go out there and do it.”
The team must also replace linebacker Trey Lathan, who was also injured against TCU and will miss the rest of the season after having leg surgery. True freshman Ben Cutter will get the start at middle linebacker against the Cougars.
“He’s earned that opportunity and he was playing a lot before,” Brown said. “I’m really excited about his growth.”
Cutter has 12 tackles so far this season as a backup. He said Monday that he feels ready to step into a starting role.
“I think it comes from preparation every week, knowing (an injury) could always happen and staying ready no matter what,” Cutter said. “I got here last January, so I’ve been here nine months. I had plenty of time for the game to start slowing down for me.”
After Cutter, underclassmen Jairo Faverus and Caden Biser are next on the depth chart.
West Virginia’s quarterbacks also benefitted from the off week as both Garrett Greene and Nicco Marchiol had been dealing with ankle injuries in recent weeks. Greene missed two games after going down early against Pitt and Marchiol was held out against TCU after getting injured in practice.
“The open week really kind of occurred at a good time for both of those quarterbacks because they were able to get off of (their bad ankles),” Brown said.
Brown said Greene is back up to 100% and will start on Thursday.