MORGANTOWN — It’s worked before, so why couldn’t it work again?
That’s what West Virginia University football coach Neal Brown is well aware of. A year ago, Dana Holgorsen reached out to a couple of top line football programs and brought in graduate transfers to beef up the defensive line.
Well, Brown has done the same thing. He grabbed Reuben Jones, a graduate transfer from Michigan, just as Holgorsen took Kenny Bigelow from UCLA and Jabril Robinson from Clemson and wound up starting them.
Early returns on Jones are strong, with coaches and teammates noting his talents, and Jones has high energy and is versatile enough to play a number of positions.
“It’s like getting an IV when you’re dehydrated,” said defensive coordinator Vic Koenning of the energy Jones brings to the line. “I feel a lot better watching him run around out there.”
Jones came in this summer and got in some work. Injuries kept him from playing any more than 11 games in three years at Michigan.
“Jones is a high-effort guy,” Brown said on Thursday. “He played in limited role at Michigan last year, but you could see that he’s extremely active on film.”
Now, his new teammates have had a chance to see him on the field.
“The thing that sticks out to me about Reuben is his energy, his effort and his attitude,” defensive tackle Reese Donahue said. “He’s one of those guys who never complains. He always gives 100%. Yesterday he made a play that was 40 yards downfield.
“He’s never la-dee-dah. He’s someone you don’t have to worry about playing hard.”
Donahue expects Jones will take a strong leadership role once he gets his feet planted.
“He should lead by example. He should use those skills to show what he’s about and to show these other guys how to play,” Donahue said. “I think he’s going to be an asset to us and I think he will be able to play multiple positions.”
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Offensive line coach and offensive coordinator Matt Moore has his eyes set on redshirt freshman James Gmiter as someone who can provide depth on his offensive line right away. Gmiter was moved from defense to offense over the spring, and although this makes him a project, Moore considers Gmiter to be worth the effort.
“Gmiter is one of the strongest, most explosive guys in program, but has always been D-line,” Moore said on Saturday. “This is practice 17 of him ever being an O-lineman. His strength and ability is no-doubt.
“It’s just learning where you put your feet that’s different. But I can already tell he’s filling in the position.”
Another player who has caught Moore’s eye as he builds an offensive line is sophomore John Hughes, who came in this year from Navarro (Texas) Junior College. Hughes is 6-5 and 298 pounds, and be rest assured that by the time he leaves WVU, he will be bigger and stronger.
“John Hughes is a really good get for us. He can play guard or tackle,” Moore said. “He hasn’t had the full year of training. He’s not going to be as strong as I want him to be. But is he going to be strong enough to get the job done? We’ll find out. He’s definitely athletic.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter at @bhertzel.