WVU Players in the NFL

Titans’ rookie LB David Long impresses head coach Mike Vrabel

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
Written by Caleb Wygal

WVU fans will remember David Long as a tough-nosed player with a knack for making plays and getting to ball carriers behind the line. He’s carried that over to the NFL as a rookie and his new coach has taken notice.

David Long is considered undersized for his position, but that didn’t stop him from being a big contributor for the Tennessee Titans during the Preseason. The team wanted to get a good look at him on defense and special teams. In the final game against New England, Long played on 88% of the defensive snaps, including an extra 13 on special teams.

And the coaching staff liked what they saw.

“I’ve been really kind of impressed with where David has been just from an instinct, track the football (standpoint),” head coach Mike Vrabel said. “Then, we’ve just got to get some of these alignments cleaned up.”

“He’s coming along,” Titans inside linebackers coach Tyrone McKenzie said. “One of the things when he came out was, loved his instincts, you loved his ability to make plays and find the football. So keeping that with him and at the same time, kind of fine-tuning things to where he’s playing within the defense.

Long, the reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, starts the season for Tennessee as a defensive backup, but will likely see most of his playing time on special teams. That’s where many young players adjust to the speed of the game before being given a larger role in the defense, like Najee Goode or Terence Garvin.

Vrabel says that is where he sees Long getting the most benefit as a rookie.

“I would say that where David’s game is probably right now would translate better to special teams because there is a little bit more instinctiveness covering a kick as opposed to the little nuances of coverage or a new defense.”

Did you pick up on the repeated word used by Vrabel and McKenzie to describe Long? “Instinctive” they both opined.

“I’m not going to try to get knocked off my butt so I’m just going to bring as much force as I can, and that seems to work most of the time,” Long said. “But if not, using finesse. Using my speed to my advantage, to make the play.”

As for being undersized for an OLB at 5’11”, 225 pounds in the NFL? Long’s not sweating it.

“That’s what I’ve been doing, my whole life, as far as playing football. I play bigger than my size.”

About the author

Caleb Wygal

Creator of WVUPros and author.