Injuries Leave WVU Searching for Depth - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Injuries Leave WVU Searching for Depth

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MORGANTOWN -

West Virginia's defense was supposed to have depth. It was a key part of why this group would have success – it brought back so many pieces at so many positions that had real collegiate experience.

But right from the first game of the season, the depth began to dwindle. There was a season-ending injury to Dozie Ezemma (though he said on Saturday he could be back for a bowl game) and the departure of veteran cornerback Brodrick Jenkins in the early going and things have only gotten worse.

Senior linebacker Doug Rigg is out after suffering too many concussions, Christian Brown has been gone from the defensive line rotation for weeks, the list goes on and on and it continues to find more players added.

Most recently, head coach Dana Holgorsen announced that both linebacker Jared Barber and safety K.J. Dillon are done for the season. Barber is scheduled to miss six months recovering from surgery on his ACL, an injury he suffered against Texas, and Dillon was just released from a stint in the ICU with severe dehydration.

Players who were once seen as an option to give a starter (or even a second string guy) a breather are now the top dogs.

"That's just part of college football – injuries," said defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. "We'll just plug people in at those positions, get them up to speed as fast as possible and try to win a game."

It's such a cliché answer, but what else is there left to say? There was real excitement about the depth on this team just a few weeks ago and now it is a dismal topic.

Behind those who are lost to injury are players with experience, but more of it has come on special teams or in limited defensive roles.

Morgantown native Tyler Anderson will continue to see his snaps increase as they seem to have all season as linebackers fall around him. Jewone Snow, once a playmaker on WVU's defense before a string of injuries relegated him to special teams, will be back in the rotation.

"He was banged up coming off surgery, obviously, early in the year," said Patterson. "But he is a guy that, special teams wise, has started to contribute the last two or three games. His role will take on a whole new meaning this week."

It isn't just the role of reserves that will change, either. In practice, the coaches must be smart with the starters they have left. While the inexperienced need significant reps, the young men who have been taking snaps all season may need to rest up a bit, knowing what will be expected of them on game day with so few players available to give them a break.

"We can't go out there and run 40 plays against each other Tuesday and Wednesday like we have been," said Holgorsen. "We have to be smarter with our approach. Thankfully, these guys have a lot of experience and have a lot of practice snaps. We just need to get them through the game and keep them healthy, as well as getting the younger guys to grow up. It's their time to be healthy and play ball."

What Holgorsen points out is that all of the negatives of losing players to injuries can become a positive of sorts for those who get to fill the void. Young athletes, or those who simply never got the reps they desired, will be counted on to step up and perform. They understand what is on the line.

"We're looking toward Kansas this week, and trying to get these victories that we need to be bowl eligible and hopefully go to a bowl game," said Anderson, a senior.

The seniors on this team would not have expected their last two seasons with the Mountaineers to play out as they have, but much like the injuries this year, these are the cards they were dealt.

With two games promised to them, there is no time for excuses or second-guessing. It is time to step up when their number is called. 

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