Campbell Makes Mark; New Starters Dot WVU Lineup
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It had been a tough year to date for Shea Campbell, West Virginia’s “Mike” linebacker out of Morgantown High School, but it appears that he is now ready to carve a spot for himself in the WVU defense.
Campbell was injured through much of the preseason and wasn’t really game ready as the season began. Dylan Tonkery, a former Bridgeport star who fought his way through injuries last year, earned the starting spot.
But Tonkery hasn’t been quite as effective in defensive coordinator Vic Koenning’s new defense this year as he was when healthy in Tony Gibson’s last year. On Saturday, against North Carolina State, Campbell got his chance and played extremely efficiently.
“Shea has had two weeks in a row of good practices,” Coach Neal Brown said. “It took until Missouri to get him back right. He played well Saturday, did a nice job of blitzing and looked quicker.”
Koenning liked what he saw.
“We’re trying to see what the guys can do best. We’ve made some mistakes with alignment. This hurt us, particularly on runs to the boundary side and not given us a chance to be successful,” he said.
“It seems we’re being a little bit hard headed and not taking the coaching and getting over. We’re probably asking too much of them but Shea has come in and done a real good job having finally recovered from the injury he had in camp.”
Koenning sees increased playing time for Campbell.
“Look for him to play 50-50 at least,” he said.
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How young and inexperienced is West Virginia’s football team?
Well, three games into the season 16 players have made their first start. On offense, linemen Michael Brown, James Gmiter, Briason Mays and John Hughes, tight end Jovani Haskins, wide receivers Sam James and Sean Ryan and quarterback Austin Kendall have made their starting debuts, while the defense has seen linemen Darius Stills, Dante Stills, Jordan Jefferson, Reuben Jones and Jeffery Pooler, linebackers Josh Chandler and Quondarius Qualls and safety Sean Mahone take the field at the opening of the contest.
Perhaps the poster boy for the opportunity young players have is Jefferson, who started at nose tackle against N.C. State even though he is a 17-year-old true freshman.
Defensive tackle Reese Donahue understands what it’s like for Jefferson.
“When young guys have an opportunity to play, that sets up success in the future. For me, that was a big thing, getting my feet wet,” he said.
“Sophomore year, I started against Virginia Tech in the first game and I wasn’t scared or this, that and the other. I was ready to play. I’d been in the situation before. I’m ready to go.
“In four years ,you are going to see that with 20 deep. It’s going to be a big deal.”
Are there comparisons Donahue can make between himself and the young Jefferson?
“We both come from good weight programs. I was 240 when I got here. They thought I was going to play bandit, like a stand up D-end. He’s 300 pounds coming in so he’ ready to rock and roll,” he said.
“My strong might be more explosive, his is like raw strength. It’s different.”
He sees Jefferson ahead of where he was as a freshman.
“Ultimately, I think he’s in a better place than I was,” Donahue said. “I had to put on 43 pounds to play. He’s 300 right now and ready to go. He doesn’t have to do anything different except train really hard. He’s very strong, very quick. Now it’s about application, applying that strength he has.”