Answering the Questions - 4

In part four of our spring analysis, we switch to the defensive side of the ball for a look at the linebackers.

Question 4: Are there enough linebackers to last throughout the season?

Going into the spring, linebacker was something of a question mark, as only Grant Wiley returned with much experience at the position. He was joined as a starter by James Davis, who has been in more positions at WVU than a Twister game, and Adam Lehnortt, who saw action in eight games last year.

After those three, there were many question marks, but the spring's fifteen practices helped answer some of those issues.

Walkon Scott Gyorko immediately asserted himself after an eye-catching freshman year on special teams, and not only earned a scholarship for himself but also played himself right into a major role on the defense this year. While Gyorko doesn't leap out at anyone in terms of size or speed, he simply gets to the ball and makes tackles.

Others who used the spring to make statements included Ben Collins, Shane Graham, Mo Howard, Leandre Washington and Alex Lake, all of who had good moments during scrimmages.

With at least these nine players battling for time at the three linebacker positions, the quick answer to our question is "yes". There are enough linebackers, at least on paper, to weather an injury or two.

That answer was proven when Lehnortt went down with a dislocated elbow midway through the spring. The coaching staff took the chance to experiment with Grant Wiley at Lehnortt's outside spot, which gave players like Gyorko and Lake a chance to show their talents on the inside. While no injury is good, Lehnortt's spring absence may have been a blessing in disguise, as it permitted the shuffling of several backers among positions.

Looking a little deeper, however, there is still some work to be done in the fall. Davis, while a senior, is learning yet another position, so he needs all the reps he can get to settle in. Lehnortt and Wiley have both had injury plagued careers; so a little luck is due to them in terms of health status.

Those three, along with Gyorko, are likely the "first four" among linebackers heading into fall camp. WVU must now identify at least two more players who are capable of playing 10-20 snaps per game and giving the starters a break. the bodies are there - will a couple of them step forward?

If the answer is yes, the Mountaineers should take a step toward restoring their proud tradition of strong linebacker play. If not, an injury or two could be devastating.

Up Next - After last season's struggles, will the team buy into the coaching staff's "new approach"?

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