Ezekiel Rose Flashes All-Around Athleticism For WVU
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – It caused a double check at the start of the season. There, deployed near the back end of West Virginia’s kickoff return team, was number 91.
It had to be a tight end, right? Put back there for blocking purposes and to provide some size? Nope, it was defensive end Ezekiel Rose. What in the heck was a six foot- three inch, 265-pound defensive lineman doing just one row in front of the deep returners for the Mountaineers? Later, when WVU had to punt, there he was again. Not on the line of scrimmage, but as one of the three players making up the shield in front of punter Billy Kinney. It was clear, at this point, there is something that the Mountaineer coaching staff saw in the junior college transfer.
“I’ve always been the versatile guy,” the upbeat defensive lineman said following the Mountaineers’ win over Delaware State.
Those six words cover a lot of ground, just like Rose himself. It only takes one look at him sprinting downfield on punt coverage, or, as he did against the Hornets, cleanly fielding a short kickoff and gaining 23 yards, to understand that he has more than the standard defensive lineman’s skill set.
“The first time I volunteered they were like ‘What? Get out of here’,” Rose said while mimicking the quizzical looks he received from the coaching staff. It didn’t take long, though, for the staff to understand they had a player who could provide strength, size and speed to the special teams mix.
While much of that was hidden from the conventional view from the stands, Rose burst into the spotlight with his return against DSU. Snaring the ball in front of deep man Marcus Simms, who fell backward when Rose occupied the space he was racing for, Rose headed straight upfield to give the Mountaineers good field position at the 38-yard line. Thus presented with the opportunity to use any part of the playbook, the Mountaineers went deep, hitting Simms with a 62-yard pass for a touchdown.
On the ensuing drive, Rose showed up in a more conventional role. Getting into the backfield quickly, he recorded an 11-yard sack against Delaware State quarterback Jack McDaniels, putting the Hornets into an untenable third down situation and forcing a punt.
Short of scoring a touchdown, it had to be a dream day for any defensive lineman. Rose smiled upon hearing that assessment, but admitted that the plays were ones that he expects to make.
“Honestly, it just felt like another game. I just felt like I had to go out there and play hard.”
With three tackles on the season, Rose wants to make a bigger impact on the defensive front. He’s part of the regular rotation on the exterior line, and also makes appearances on WVU’s defensive packages in passing situations. That’s an area that has to get better as West Virginia enters Big 12 play, with its plethora of highly-productive quarterbacks and passing games. If Rose can bring his athleticism to bear on the pass rush, he could add another achievement to the flashes of potential he has shown thus far.