WVU football: Mountaineers lose two more defenders to injury
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia lost its seventh and eighth defensive players to season-ending injuries in Saturday's loss to Texas.
Coach Dana Holgorsen said at his weekly press conference Tuesday that starting linebacker Jared Barber tore an ACL late against the Longhorns and safety K.J. Dillon was hospitalized with severe dehydration issues and that both will miss the rest of the regular season.
Linebacker Shaq Petteway and cornerback Nana Kyeremeh were lost for the season during the preseason. During the season, linebackers Dozie Ezemma, Doug Rigg and Wes Tonkery and defensive lineman Christian Brown suffered season-ending injuries.
Barber, a junior from Mocksville, N.C., had a career-high 14 tackles against Texas and is tied for the team lead with safety Darwin Cook with 71 tackles. Holgorsen said Barber will have surgery next week and miss spring practice, which begins in March.
"He was playing at an extremely high level," Holgorsen said. "His effort was great. His attitude was tremendous. He's been one of our team leaders for us on defense."
Dillon had been a valuable part of the defense because of the many things he could do. The sophomore from Apopka, Fla., had first been Karl Joseph's backup at safety, but played nickel back because he could play the run and cover receivers. He's also one of WVU's better blitzers and had been starting at Spur linebacker ahead of Isaiah Bruce.
Holgorsen said Dillon, who is diabetic, had been hospitalized and monitored in intensive care to deal with the issues related to the dehydration.
Counting the players out for the season, WVU has 16 defensive players who have missed at least one game. They've combined to miss 74 games.
Holgorsen said he's concerned how the injuries affect healthy players, like Joseph, Cook and defensive linemen Shaq Rowell and Will Clarke, as well as the "20 other guys on the list" with day-to-day injuries.
"Depth is a problem," he said. "It's where the snaps are starting to pile up, though. Karl, Darwin, Will, Shaq, they're playing their tails off, but the snaps are adding up. We've got to be smart with how we approach the week. We can't go out there and run 40 plays against each other on Tuesday and Wednesday like we've been able to."
Holgorsen said junior Jewone Snow and senior Tyler Anderson will help replace Barber and he rattled off a list of names, including freshmen Marvin Gross, Jeremy Tyler and Brandon Napoleon and sophomore Ricky Rumph to play for Dillon.
"We've got to get young guys to grow up," he said. "It's their time to play ball. Go play."
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WVU DID get some good news about its quarterbacks. Quarterback Clint Trickett, who Holgorsen said was knocked out in the first quarter against Texas, "is in a much better spot" and practiced Tuesday. The Mountaineers are closer to giving him some company.
Holgorsen said Ford Childress is nearing where he needs to be to practice after tearing his right pectoral muscle against Maryland.
"We anticipate Clint coming back and being fine and Ford is closer to 90 percent now," Holgorsen said. "He'll probably start repping this week. Whether he's good enough for them to be meaningful reps or not, we'll have to see what it looks like."
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WVU'S 11-YEAR streak of playing in a bowl game is in jeopardy and the Mountaineers (4-6, 2-5 Big 12) have to win Saturday's noon game at Kansas (2-7, 0-6) and the Nov. 30 game against Iowa State (1-8, 0-6).
"It's what the expectations are, certainly," Holgorsen said. "We're going to do everything in our power to get there. I know that."
Holgorsen's streak is two years longer. He hasn't missed a bowl in his 13 seasons as a Division I assistant or head coach. His contract earns him $25,000 for making a bowl and another $25,000 for winning the game, but Holgorsen said it's worth more to him in another aspect.
"It's a reward for the seniors," he said. "That's the No. 1 thing. You can say it's good for development. You can say you can go win one on TV and get a trophy for the case and all that stuff. It's positive and it's a good experience for the kids. It's good experience for the coaches and their families and the fans. All that stuff's good, but it's a reward for the seniors.
"We've got about 12 seniors who have been fantastic. We're talking about guys who have been though a lot of transitions, from coaching staffs to conferences to a lot of different stuff. We've got a collection of guys who want to keep playing."
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HOLGORSEN FOUND out like many others did Monday that WVU President Jim Clements was leaving office to take the same job at Clemson: By surprise.
"I was watching film and got the news and it was disappointing news for me and for WVU," he said. "Jim's a great ally, a great friend and he's done a tremendous job for WVU. I thank him for all the hard work he's done."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.