The game of football has changed quite a bit over the years, but through it all, the linebacker remains unchanged as one of the most fearsome players on the gridiron.
From its founding, West Virginia has trotted out some tough players at the position, so it may be tough to pick the best out of this litter. Like yesterday’s poll on the defensive line, the top three vote-getters will earn themselves a spot on the All-Mountaineer team.
If you need a refresher, don’t worry — we have a cheat sheet below the poll, so don’t be afraid to take a glance.
Steve Dunlap (1973-1975): Was it the ‘stache? Dunlap was a centerpiece to Bobby Bowden’s defense in the mid-1970s, tallying 359 total tackles for his career. As a sophomore, Dunlap set the school record for tackles in a game (28 against Boston College) and in a season (190) — both of which are still intact today. He went on to coach for over three decades, including an extensive stint with the Mountaineers as an assistant between the 1980s-2000s. He was inducted to the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2019.
Darryl Talley (1979-1982): West Virginia’s all-time tackles leader, Talley made his name known to Mountaineer fans early in his career when he started his tenure as a four-year starter. By his senior year, he was known on the national stage, even earning the honor of Sports Illustrated Player of the Week after racking up 15 tackles against Boston College. He finished his WVU career with his name all over the program’s record books, and went on to have a stellar NFL career which earned him a spot on the Buffalo Bills’ Wall of Fame. He was inducted to the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.
Chris Haering (1986-1989): Haering was yet another prolific tackler for the Mountaineers, helping bring the Mountaineers to a shot at the national championship in 1988. His best personal season, however, would come the next year when he logged 185 tackles (up from 74 the previous year), 20 of which came against Rutgers in the regular season’s penultimate game. Now, he’s the special teams coordinator at Wisconsin.
Grant Wiley (2000-2003): Wiley finished his career just three stops short of Talley’s record, logging a total of 481 tackles with the Mountaineers in four seasons as a starter. He amassed double-digit tackles in all of his senior season games except for that year’s Gator Bowl (he still had nine). Wiley was a menace against Cincinnati that year, when he forced three fumble He finished his career a consensus All-American in 2003 and was inducted to the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
Reed Williams (2005-2009): Likely the only Mountaineer on this list to have a holiday named after him, Williams was a key piece to the Mountaineers’ legendary 2007 team that brought home a Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma. That year turned out to be the best of his career, when he brought down 107 ball carriers with a sack. The lone sack came in the Fiesta Bowl, in which he brought home the game’s Defensive MVP award — an honor high enough for his hometown of Moorefield, West Virginia to celebrate “Reed Williams Day.”
Najee Goode (2008-2011): Super Bowl LII champion Najee Goode got his start playing under Bill Stewart at West Virginia, where he finished his Mountaineer career with 142 tackles and 8 sacks. He was awarded the honor of Ed Pastilong MVP in 2011, when he logged career-highs with 80 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012 before moving to the Philadelphia Eagles the following year, where he would help the team take home a Lombardi Trophy.
David Long (2015-2018): Called the “Scariest Linebacker in College Football” by a YouTuber in 2018, Long’s job was to keep opponents out of the end zone while Will Grier, David Sills and Gary Jennings did their best to find it — and he was good at it. The Cincinnati native 250 tackles in his WVU career, 111 of which came during his junior campaign in 2018. That year, he also added 19 TFLs and 7 sacks. He finished his career as the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year and a second team All-American from several publications. He just finished his rookie season with the Tennessee Titans, where he starts at linebacker.
Today’s poll will go along with yesterday’s — nominees who don’t make the top three will be re-nominated for the defensive flex position, the poll of which will be held on July 3. So, if your favorite guy doesn’t make it, come on back and throw him another vote next week.
If you missed yesterday’s poll, it’s still live. Here’s a full list of our daily polls, including the ones yet to come:
- Running back (click to vote)
- Wide receiver (click to vote)
- Defensive line (click to vote)
- June 27: Tight end/Fullback
- June 28: Offensive Line
- June 29: Quarterback
- June 30: Defensive back (top 2 vote-getters)
- July 1: Safety (top 2 vote-getters)
- July 2: Offensive Flex (based on high vote-getters)
- July 3: Defensive Flex (based on high vote-getters)
- July 4: Kicker/punter
- July 5: Head Coach
- July 6: Full reveal of the All-Mountaineer Team