Long, Mahone Each Looking To Make An Impact At Safety
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Jake Long and Sean Mahone have followed similar paths since arriving at WVU in the summer of 2016.
Each was a three-star recruit coming out of high school in Ohio. Mahone was a product of Lakota West, which is in the northern suburbs of Cincinnati. Long grew up in Ashland, Ky., but moved to Columbus his senior year, attending Hamilton Township High School, where he was a Division III first-team all-state honoree.
Each came to West Virginia listed as a cornerback, and both stayed at that position for a while, including a redshirt season as true freshmen in 2016 and then in backup roles in 2017.
Prior to last season, each looked to more of a prominent role at cornerback, but Long suffered an injury in August and Mahone, while seeing plenty of game action, had to be content with most of his playing time on special teams.
Mahone wound up moving to the safety position midway through the ’18 season to provide depth there, but Long never did get on the field.
“I tore every ligament in my wrist,” Long said of his preseason injury. “It was bad, but I got through it. The rehab has been good. I still have to do motion work and stuff, but other than that, I don’t have any problems with (the wrist).”
Now back on the field, Long has joined Mahone at a safety position in Vic Koenning’s revamped Mountaineer defense. Long is playing the Cat safety, where he is competing with Derrek Pitts, Barry Moreland and Kerry Martin. Mahone is lining up at free safety as are Kenny Robinson, E.J. Brown and Osman Kamara.
“I think (the Cat) fits me pretty well, because I’m a little bit bigger,” noted the 5-foot-11, 202-pound Long. “I didn’t play last year, so I’m still catching up on the game speed and stuff like that, but I trust Coach Vic and everyone who put me in that position, so it’ll work itself out.
“Being at safety, you are in the open field, so being a corner helped me with that because I’m used to being out there in space,” he said. “I’m getting comfortable there.”
While the departure of Dana Holgorsen caught many at West Virginia by surprise, Long is comfortable with change – “I think it was a good thing we started over.” While attending Paul Blazer High in Ashland, Long was recruited to Troy by Neal Brown, so he’s familiar with the new Mountaineer mentor.
“It is different for all of us, but we’re coming along,” added Long. “We have to get used to the new scheme, but we play with energy. You can tell we just like to play, and that’s going to help us a lot in the long run.”
Mahone got a jumpstart on Long at safety, having moved over to that position midway through last season. But while the spot he mans is still called free safety, the responsibilities in WVU’s old 3-3 odd stack scheme and Koenning’s multi-look defense are so different that Mahone is having to learn plenty of new duties.
“Obviously, with the new format, it’s a little different, but in some ways it’s easier,” noted the management information systems major who is a two-time first-team all-Big 12 academic team honoree. “It takes stress off some of the coverage responsibilities. For the most part, I’m coming downhill and being more physical. I like that.
“Spring is the time to learn the new scheme and stuff,” he added. “What we learn now is going to help what we do in the summer.”
Long and Mahone again seem stride by stride. Each is listed with the exact same size on WVU’s roster – 5-foot-11 and 202 pounds. And now each junior is fighting for a spot on the depth chart at a safety position, one at Cat and one at free.