West Virginia linebacker Xavier Preston has been suspended for Saturday’s season opener against Missouri. Allan Taylor of WVMetroNews.com first reported the news.
— Allan Taylor (@AllanTaylorWVU) August 28, 2016
The Mountaineers’ defense will be a major question mark for the game in Morgantown. West Virginia already was faced with replacing six starters from last season. Preston, 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, was projected to replace Nick Kwiatkoski, a fourth-round NFL Draft pick, at outside linebacker. Preston played in 13 games last season as a backup and special teams contributor.
With Preston unavailable, it is expected that defensive coordinator Tony Gibson will turn to senior Justin Arndt, a former walk on who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds. Despite his lack of size, Arndt has been praised by Gibson for his hustle and desire.
West Virginia has lost five defensive players during the off-season. Freshman linebacker Brendan Ferns, a four-star recruit who was expected to play as a backup, suffered a torn ACL during practice. The Mountaineers also lost safety Dravon Askew-Henry during pre-season practice. Reserve nose tackle Jaleel Fields suffered a torn ACL over the summer while freshman cornerback Jake Long is out after shoulder surgery.
Reserve defensive end Xavier Pegues is underwent shoulder surgery and he might not return until late October.
Last week, WVU coach Dana Holgorsen announced that senior offensive lineman Adam Pankey was suspended for the opener after being arrested and charged with DUI.