WVU football: Injuries mount for Mountaineers' defense
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia will welcome linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski back to the lineup in Saturday's noon home game against Texas Tech, but the defense will be without a few other players for a while.
Mountaineers Coach Dana Holgorsen said at his weekly press conference Tuesday backup nose guard Christian Brown is out for the season and backup spur linebacker and former Bridgeport High School star Wes Tonkery is out six weeks with a broken thumb.
Safety Ricky Rumph, who plays in pass defense packages against teams that use a lot of receivers -- like No. 16 Texas Tech -- suffered a foot injury in WVU's last game and is doubtful Saturday.
Brown, a second-year sophomore from Miami, suffered what Holgorsen called a "weight room injury" weeks ago. He missed the past two games, and Holgorsen said WVU will seek a medical redshirt because Brown was hurt in the first half of the season and WVU can document the injury is incapacitating.
Those are two of the guidelines spelled out by NCAA Bylaw 14;2;4 that covers hardship waivers. The third is trickier, but still on Brown's side.
According to WVU's participation statistics, Brown played in the first four games of the season. The bylaw reads that the injury that would allow for a medical redshirt must happen "when the student-athlete has not participated in more than three contests or dates of competition (whichever is applicable to that sport) or 30 percent (whichever number is greater) of the institution's scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition in his or her sport."
Thirty percent of 12 games is 3.6 games, but the NCAA allows a school to round up, which puts Brown at the maximum number of games allowed for a redshirt.
Kwiatkoski started the first four games and was the team's leading tackler, but he pulled a hamstring against Maryland and missed the win against Oklahoma State. He played, albeit not much, against Baylor. Holgorsen said Kwiatkoski didn't practice last week, but returned to practice Monday.
He's listed as a backup behind Jared Barber at Will linebacker. Barber moved following the Kwiatkoski injury. He'd been rotating with Doug Rigg at Sam linebacker.
"(Nick) makes us better defensively," Holgorsen said. "Jared's a solid guy, much like Doug Rigg is. They're both program guys who are solid and are going to try hard to be in the right position, but Nick's a guy who's made some more dynamic plays. If he's healthy, he'll be a starter."
Holgorsen was less clear about receiver Ivan McCartney, who' has started four games, but suffered a concussion against Oklahoma State and missed the Baylor game.
"I don't know what's going on there or if he's cleared to go or not," Holgorsen said. "I don't get into the whole head thing with concussions."
Perhaps to compensate, WVU moved Mario Alford from inside receiver to outside receiver. He backs up fellow junior college transfer Ronald Carswell.
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FOR THE FIRST time in three weeks, WVU has three healthy quarterbacks at practice.
Redshirt freshman Ford Childress practiced last week and will do so again this week as he recovers from a torn pectoral muscle on his right (throwing) side. He was injured against Maryland and couldn't practice the two weeks after that.
Junior Clint Trickett hurt his right (throwing) shoulder late in the win against Oklahoma State, but practiced the following week and played through pain against Baylor. Holgorsen let Trickett sit out last week's practices during the open week.
Junior Paul Millard, who spelled Trickett against Baylor when Trickett was hurting or confused by communication problems with Holgorsen, has remained healthy through it all.
"I thought the off week really did Clint well," Holgorsen said. "Paul is doing the same things he's done each and every week. He does what we ask of him. He's been healthy and he's been doing a good job. Ford probably got a lot more work last week than (he will) this week and it probably took a little toll on him. He's got to do a little bit better."
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WHOEVER HOLGORSEN chooses for the Red Raiders (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) will get his third start of the season. Millard, Childress and Trickett are each 1-1 as a starter and each won his first start at WVU (3-3, 1-2).
Holgorsen admitted Tuesday that the playbook changes when he changes quarterbacks, but he said that can't be a limitation this deep into the season.
"There are certain things each guy does well, and I'm sure it's going to come up, but there's got to be a point where it doesn't matter who the guy is. He's got to be able to execute it," Holgorsen said. "We've had enough snaps with each of them to be able to know what they do well and what they don't do well and everyone around them has to identify that and execute the play that's called."
Holgorsen did allow for one obstacle that's going to take time for his team to manage better than it did during the first six games.
"It's so hard for a new quarterback to throw to new receivers. It really is," he said. "We've got so much inexperience at each position that it doesn't look good at times, but it'll get better. It's gotten better and it'll continue to get better over the next six weeks."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.