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West Virginia-Colorado: WVU Defense Back at Full Strength—Will It Be Enough?

Frank AhrensSenior Writer IJune 24, 2016

Fiesta Bowl defensive MVP and middle linebacker Reed Williams is ready to play—and not a moment too soon for the Mountaineers.

Williams, who had both shoulders surgically repaired in the offseason, has not even dressed for the first two games, and his presence has been missed. Pat Lazear started in his place for the Villanova game but was quickly pulled, offering only that he hadn’t played like the coaches demand.

I don’t know what this means, but in the few highlights I saw, Lazear was getting blocked out of every play he tried to get in on.

Anthony Leonard (who?) took his place, but evidently not well enough to get a second game at middle linebacker, as star Mortty Ivy was moved from his outside position for the East Carolina game. Although he made plenty of tackles, everyone else looked lost.

Williams provides a lot of tackles—he was last year’s leading tackler—but maybe more importantly, he brings leadership and knowledge of how the complicated 3-3-501(c)3-23-skidoo defense works.

Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel has created a defense that, in theory, requires players to stay in their roles and trust that others will do the same. Freelancing destroys it. So an on-field captain, such as Williams, is necessary.

The question: Will Williams be at full strength or not? Even if he is medically healthy, will he play with the sort of abandon required by defensive players, or will he play tentatively?

Further, it may be too foolish to put too much emphasis on the return of one player who hasn’t played a live down since nearly last year.

The one thing that is certain: Williams and the WVU defense can’t let Colorado hold on to the ball and drive the way Villanova and East Carolina did, because WVU’s offense won’t be able to get into the groove it needs. And then it won’t matter if Sam Huff suits up at middle linebacker.

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