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Ferns, Pitts lead group of potential impact freshman

Brendan Ferns redshirted during the 2016 season due to a knee injury.  (Photo credit: Tyson Murray, wvmetronews)
Brendan Ferns redshirted during the 2016 season due to a knee injury.
(Photo credit: Tyson Murray, wvmetronews)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Every year players come and go, giving newcomers a chance to contribute and that is no different in Morgantown.

The West Virginia University football team has six true or redshirt freshman that could make an impact on the gridiron this season.

Heading into fall camp last season, Brendan Ferns was a linebacker expected to see some action. However, he suffered a season-ending ACL injury.

Now, the St. Clairsvile, Ohio native is ready to make his mark on the Big 12.

As a senior in high school, the 6-foot-2, 236-pound Ferns made 118 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, two sacks, five pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.

In 2016, he was named to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Prior to suffering his injury, Ferns was expected to lift some of the weight off of Al-Rasheed Benton’s shoulders but that didn’t happen.

With David Long out for at least a month, Ferns could shift from the inside Mike to Will spot. Either way, Ferns is expected to make an immediate impact.

A true freshman that could make some noise is safety Derrek Pitts. Flipping the Dunbar native from Penn State was huge for the Mountaineers, especially after losing a lot of clutch contributors of last season’s secondary.

Pitts was a 4-star recruit and won numerous accolades as a senior, including the Charleston Gazette-Mail Kanawha Valley Player of the Year, All-West Virginia All-State First Team honors and the Carl Lee Award, signifying the top defensive back in the state.

During his tenure at South Charleston High School, the 6-foot, 173-pound Pitts had 348 career tackles, including 13 sacks and 35 tackles for loss.

In his senior season, Pitts had 90 tackles, including 56 solo stops and nine tackles for loss. He recovered three fumbles and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

Also, the freshman is someone that can return punts if need be. Pitts averaged 45.5 yards on kickoff returns and 21.3 on punt returns.

Another redshirt freshman that can contribute immediately is Dylan Tonkery. With the loss of Long, he is likely to see more action.

The Bridgeport, W.Va. native is listed as Long’s backup and his quickness and athletic ability plays in his favor. However, he lacks experience.

The 6-foot, 214-pound freshman was a three-year starter at Bridgeport High, where he recorded 72 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and two interceptions.

After his senior season, Tonkery was named to the USA TODAY American Family Insurance All-USA West Virginia First Team and the All-Big Ten First Team.


Josh Sills (73) is second on WVU's preseason depth chart. (Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)
Josh Sills (73) is second on WVU’s preseason depth chart.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS)

Often, offensive linemen don’t see much playing time as a freshman. However, Josh Sills may be an exception to that.

The Sarahsville, Ohio native traveled with the team last season and had a chance to learn from some of the best. Currently, Sills is penciled in as Grant Lingafelter’s backup at right guard on the preseason depth chart.

The 6-foot-6, 320-pounder was a two-year starter at Meadowbrook High School. In 2015, he was an Associated Press All-Ohio Division IV first teamer and earned a three-star rating by ESPN, Rivals, Scout, 247Sports and PrepStar.

Tevin Bush is a versatile running back that has been compared to former Mountaineer Tavon Austin. For Landry-Walker High, Bush lined up as a running back, slot receiver and return man.

Like Austin, Bush is small in size, standing at 5-foot-5 and 168 pounds. He is fast, agile and difficult for opponents to bring down.

As a senior, the New Orleans, La. native collected more than 2,500 all-purpose yards and 29 touchdowns.

While Bush may not see action right away, he could find the field sooner rather than later if the injury bug strikes again. The speedy true freshman is also a candidate to see playing time on special teams.

Another true freshman that could be a valuable asset to WVU is Reggie Roberson.

The 6-foot-3, 192-pound wide out has been turning heads over the summer. During his senior year of high school Roberson caught 60 passes for 1,060 yards and 11 touchdowns, earning District 11-6A All-District First Team Offense honors.

With, receivers like Gary Jennings, Ka’Raun White, David Sills and Jevon Durante returning, the Desoto, Texas native may not crack the starting lineup on opening day but could see the field, especially on special teams.

During his final year at John Horn High, Roberson had more than 800 return yards. He averaged 13.4 yards on punt returns and 36.7 on kickoff returns.

Roberson was named the District 11-6A District Special Teams MVP for his efforts.


Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS

Shanna Rose
WVU Graduate with a bachelor's in journalism and multimedia journalist. Sports Fan and sports writer. Former WVU News reporter. Contact Shanna on Twitter @SMR1837
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