Injury Bounceback, Leadership Key Avery’s Senior Preparation For WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A veteran leader on the rebound from injuries that marred the 2017 season looking to make his mark: that’s the well-known story for WVU linebacker David Long. It’s also the profile for Toyous Avery, who missed five games during the year and was left wanting more, both from a personal standpoint and for his team.
Avery has been a respectable performer at bandit for the Mountaineers over his two seasons after coming to WVU from Coffeyville Community College. In 19 games over two seasons, he has 35 tackles, and worked his way from backup into a starting role in the 2016 finale against Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl. That was expected to act as a springboard for the 2017 season, but an injury variously described as a finger and a hand problem kept him out of five contests over two different stretches that year. That absence clearly affected his progression, as he started the campaign with 10 stops against Virginia Tech and East Carolina. In his second game back after missing two contests he had five tackles against Texas Tech, but was again sidelined when he was injured against Baylor, causing him to sit out the next three games.
While Avery returned for the final two games of the regular season and the bowl game against Utah, he wasn’t the same player in terms of productivity, and he is eagerly looking to get back to his former level during his senior season. Joining him will be a defense that has been continually characterized as the question mark, if not the weak spot, of the 2018 squad.
Avery and his teammates have hear that for most of the spring and summer, but while they strongly disagree with the characterization, they haven’t been making a lot of noise about it. Instead, there’s a quiet determination that’s shown mostly through the way they have approached off-season work.
“We have an edge about ourselves,” Avery said. “I’m not sure how to explain it. We are going hard, hard, hard, no matter what it is. Even if it’s the simplest thing.”
In today’s world, where videos of workout achievements or bombastic statements are the norm, Avery’s statement is mild. However, in person, there’s a strength to his words — a steely resolve that indicates no matter how the season plays out, it won’t come up short of expectations due to lack of effort or work. Following the 7-6 campaign, everyone in the program, from head coach down to walk-ons, know that wins were left on the table last year, and Avery, in his leadership role, sees that knowledge fueling the current work.
“It comes from all of us,” Avery said of the motivation and drive to prepare with that “hard, hard, hard” attitude and effort. “The coaches tell us, but they don’t have to really. It’s just a chip on our shoulder.”
* * * * * *
Part of that tough approach is a return to more running — and of an obstacle that literally looms over the Mountaineer Football Complex. That’s Law School Hill, which started out as a sleigh-riding locale of choice for WVU students riding purloined cafeteria trays, but morphed into a conditioning site for the football team when workouts evolved from simple weight lifting to more varied conditioning tasks.
“There’s 400s, hills, and a lot more running,” Avery said of this summer’s program. “Law School Hill was under construction [last year] but we are back on it now. There’s no running from it.”
The pun in that last sentence may or may not have been intended, but Avery says this year’s work is no joke.
“It’s harder, way harder,” the Covington, Ga., native said. “It helps to mix it up, but it also hurts a lot (physically). But whatever they want, I’m down with it.”