West Virginia defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said the effect that injuries had on the Mountaineers early in the season was to the point of catastrophic.
Heading into Saturday’s Week 8 matchup with Texas Tech, West Virginia’s injury numbers could still be considered part of that threshold.
Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown named eight players on his injury report during Tuesday’s news conference, along with announcing tight end Mike O’Laughlin will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL.
“It’s one of those things where it seems like it’s different positions each year,” Brown said. “But, we’re not the only team going through it. Our roster will be changing a lot. It’s been a bigger impact than it was three-to-four years ago.”
Brown said offensive lineman Jordan White “will see action this week” after leaving in the third quarter of the season opener against Pittsburgh and having played just four snaps since. Defensive lineman Hammond Russell, who has not played this season, practiced this week.
Freshman safety Mumu Bin-Wahad and Colorado State transfer Rashad Ajayi are both expected to play Saturday. Defensive end Sean Martin, secondary pieces Wesley McCormick and Charles Woods and running back CJ Donaldson are all questionable, pending performances in practice.
Woods is coming off missing six weeks due to an ankle injury sustained against Pittsburgh in Week 1. Donaldson suffered a concussion in the Mountaineers’ loss to Texas.
O’Laughlin’s season-ending injury is the third of his career, following a tear of the same ACL last year, as well as his freshman campaign. Andrew Wilson-Lamp, though not injured, will have to sit out the first half of Saturday’s game after being flagged for targeting against Baylor.
“Injuries have definitely been a factor,” Brown said. “Some of our guys haven’t played too many snaps. It’s been a mix of some younger and older guys.”
Despite losing multiple key pieces, sometimes more than one at a time, Brown has noted these situations may be a good circumstance for the Mountaineers, as now second and even some third-string players are seeing game action.
Lesley has felt the larger effect of the injuries, being six of the eight players currently on the report are on his side of the ball. However, he voiced similar thoughts to Brown concerning playing time, while adding there has been a positive curve in performance comparing the win against Baylor to Week 2’s drubbing against Kansas.
“Experience is the best teacher,” Lesley said. “When you go back to Kansas, we were forcing guys to adjust, and we could only do that during a timeout or in between possessions. Now, in Game 6, it’s the same situation but we continued to adjust with the Baylor game on the fly.
“The guys have been seeing time, and four games later, it’s totally different. That’s something you can’t mimic in spring practice. It’s looking very bright for the future.”
Brown said the Mountaineers’ defensive performance against Texas Tech will be a big key to a possible win, particularly defending the pass.
The Red Raiders currently rank No. 2 in the FBS with 365 pass yards per game. Texas Tech will also likely have the option of using any of its three active quarterbacks in the contest, with head coach Joey McGuire already confirming two will see game action.
With the Red Raiders’ offensive strategy based on high-tempo with its pass-heavy scheme, Brown understands it will be very hard to completely shut it down, and said the Mountaineers will do their best to contain it.
“We’re not gonna pitch a shutout,” Brown said. “I’d love to, but we’re not. When they throw the ball 50, 60 times, they’re gonna get pass yards. We just gotta keep them in front and get them down after they catch it.”