Defensive Line Concern As Bowl Approaches

West Virginia's smallish defensive line will likely be short at least one more player when the Mountaineers take the field for the Gator Bowl on Thursday.

Despite an effort at rehabilitation, senior defensive end Fred Blueford will probably not be able to play against the Terrapins. Blueford, who suffered a knee injury earlier this year, had been attempting to rehabilitate it without surgery, but does not appear to be well enough to be able to play next week.

The anticipated unavailability of Blueford is piled on top of the absence of fellow defender Pat Liebig, who underwent surgery recently for his own knee injury. Although the surgery was successful, Liebig will be unavailable for the game as well.

West Virginia's defensive line is further hampered by the limited availability of sophomore stalwart Ernest Hunter, who has continued to be slowed by a thigh injury. Hunter has been taking part in WVU's workouts on a limited basis, and is expected to play. However, the number of snaps he will be able to partcipate in is still a question mark.

With those injuries, WVU has shuffled their defensive line. Nose tackle Ben Lynch is getting first team reps at end, while redshirt freshman Craig Wilson has been working with the first team at nose. They, along with tackle Jason Hardee, will have to put in a great deal of time against Maryland's talented offensive line.

That will be no easy task, as more than one coach has described the Terp line as the best the Mountaineers faced this year. The Terrapin line is big, strong and moves well, and that's a triple threat that won't be easily overcome. The Terps average six feet five inches in height and almost 305 pounds per man up front. Throw in a 6-5, 260 pound tight end, and West Virginia will be facing a big challenge, in more ways than one, next Thursday.

Even more distressing is the fact that WVU didn't face Maryland's most highly-regarded lineman, senior Lamar Bryant, who was out with an injury when the Mountaineers travelled to College Park and were pushed around in a 34-7 loss.

Although there will be a number of key matchups that West Virginia must fare better in than their first go-round against the Terps, none will be more important than this battle in the trenches. And with the Mountaineers going into that battle short-handed, it will take a supreme effort to win that face-off.

Mountaineers Daily Top Stories