Linebackers Settling In

MORGANTOWN – When Jared Barber stepped onto the campus at West Virginia University the Davie High School (Mocksville, N.C.) product was an immediate contributor.

A freshman season which saw the 233-pounder play in 12 games, starting two, culminated in him finishing with a season-high six tackles in WVU’s 70-33 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Among those was one tackle for loss as well as two pass breakups.

However, the departure of then-defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, who elected to rejoin former-WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez at Arizona, resulted in Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson being hired as co-defensive coordinators for the 2012 campaign.

Making matters more difficult was the duo’s decision to switch the Mountaineers’ scheme from the 3-3-5 stack to a more traditional 3-4 approach.

“Yes, it (the 3-4) threw me off a little bit, but I’ve been studying a lot of film this summer and I think I have a better hold on it this year,” Barber said. “I’ve also been getting in the weight room and trying to get better as a whole.”

Barber played in 12 games during WVU’s 7-6 season, earning starts in four of those games. He finished with 34 tackles, including 18 solo stops, one sack, 2.5 tackles for loss, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery.

Numbers that aren’t exactly eye-popping, but when combined with the fact that he was a true sophomore playing in a new defensive scheme, they were acceptable.

Acceptable enough to earn the junior-to-be one of the top two slots in the depth chart at linebacker along with sophomore Nick Kwialkoski following the spring workouts and has him in line to see plenty of action when the Mountaineers play host to William and Mary at noon on Saturday, Aug. 31.

“We’ve got a lot of kids who can play,” continued the linebacker. “The competition, as you guys saw it in the spring, is pretty high.”

High enough to keep fans guessing as who will be in the starting lineup when the defense takes to the field against William and Mary.

Battles exist everywhere as sophomore Isaiah Bruce and senior Doug Rigg top the depth chart at Sam linebacker while the Buck position, which never really reached its potential a year ago as a havoc-creator, saw three players come out of the spring with the ability to contribute – seniors Tyler Anderson and Dozie Ezemma and sophomore Garret Hope.

The two names that came out of the spring at the Spur position was former-Bridgeport standout Wes Tonkery as well as incoming freshman Hodari Christian.

“Competition will be high when camp begins next month,” Tonkery said. “We have a lot of guys coming back and there are a lot of guys coming in that will add to that competition.”

Others coming back that could see their names placed in the depth chart include Shaq Petteway, Sean Walters and Jewone Snow while newcomers D’Vante Henry and Brandon Gibson could provide immediate help to the unit.

“I think our roles as linebackers will be very high this year,” Tonkery added. “For that reason alone having more depth at the positions can only help.”

Help enough to lift the Mountaineers from the cellar of the Big 12 Conference’s defensive statistics? Only time will tell.