MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Practice no. 5 for the West Virginia University football took place Saturday morning on the Steve Antoline Family Practice Field.
The Mountaineers were coming off a recovery day on Friday and had moderate work this morning in shorts and shoulder pads. The team is scheduled to have physical practices on Sunday and Monday before its next recovery day on Tuesday.
West Virginia’s first scrimmage of fall camp will be next Thursday in the stadium.
Through five practices, Brown said he’s still trying to figure out which guys can do what in certain situations. Who gets the ball on third and seven? Who are their most reliable defenders? Which specialists are the most dependable? Who is going to emerge at quarterback? Who is going to assert themselves at right tackle?
Brown admitted Saturday that it’s still a trial and error deal, at least through the first scrimmage.
“O-line wise and D-line wise, just because they have played so much football, we’ve got a pretty good idea strength and weakness wise on those guys,” he said. “The receivers, the first group, we know what they do well. We’re still learning with the quarterbacks.
“I think tight end wise we’re trying to develop some depth and find out what those two-, three- and four-guys can do. Defensively, in the secondary we’ve got a lot of different ways we can go there, he continued. “We can play up to six guys and feel pretty good about it so we’re mixing up our packages. The linebackers have played all spring but we need a lot of valuable reps and we need to find ourselves there.”
As far as the quarterbacks, all of them got lots of reps again on Saturday.
“We did some situational things today and I thought Nicco (Marchiol) threw the ball his best through the five practices,” Brown said. “He’s growing. The game is starting to slow down because he has a better understanding of the defensive structure and is more comfortable with our plays than he was in the spring, which is to be expected.
“(Will Crowder) has been solid. He missed the first day but has been out there for the last four and he definitely has some growth. JT (Daniels) has got more experience than all of them and then Garrett Greene had a great two-minute drive today to kind of finish practice.”
You can put Brown in the category of coaches who don’t buy into the philosophy of “game players.” In most instances, the positive things a player does in practices usually show up in games.
“There are very few gamers,” he explained. “What I mean by that is there are very few that have the ability to practice poorly and then all of a sudden play at a high level in a game. Now, the flip side of that is I think there are a lot of really good practice players and it doesn’t translate into the game.
“There are some reasons behind that,” Brown continued. “Maybe they have some anxiety. Maybe they are really routine based and then when they get into a game it’s not as predictable and they don’t perform as well, but I don’t buy into the ‘gamers.’ Football is a trust game and for coaches and for players you have to earn that trust in practice.”
The process of developing that trust continues on Sunday morning.
* Among the recent additions Brown singled out on Saturday were freshman defensive lineman Asani Redwood from Suwanee, Georgia, Tyler Junior College transfer Jaylon SheltonMiami transfer Tirek Austin-Cavethe two four-year transfer corners Rashad Ajayi spirit Wesley McCormick and freshman hybrid CJ Donaldsonwhom Brown said is capable of playing three different positions, including running back.
Brown said Redwood is still a relative newcomer to the game of football but he was coached well at Collins Hill High and has added an eye-opening 90 pounds to his 280-pound frame in a relatively short period of time.
Shelton has displayed a knack for retaining information and has shown some savvy play on the field. Austin-Cave runs well at the linebacker position and he believes Ajayi and McCormick are going to be factors this season.
As for Donaldson, he’s a solid 240 pounds with a lot of ability.
“He gives the defense some personnel issues,” Brown said.
Junior college wide receiver Cortez Braham has also shown some things through the first five practices and is probably a little ahead of Jeremiah Aaron right now because he’s been here a little bit longer than Aaron has.
* Jim Karwoski, a two-way player who lettered three seasons for the Mountaineers from 1963-65, took in today’s practice along with his wife, Marta, and their grandchildren Brendan and Brady. Karwoski said he once made more than 20 tackles in WVU’s great 28-27, come-from-behind victory over Sugar Bowl-bound Syracuse to conclude the 1964 regular season.
“What I remember most about that game is how cold it was and how empty the stadium became after halftime,” he said. “A lot of people walked up to the MountainLair to get warm and follow the game on the radio.”
New football administrator and Deputy Director of Athletics Steve Uryasz was also a sideline observer today. Steve always has a good story or two in his hip pocket and when he used to work at Texas Tech, he joked that Lubbock is so wide open that you can sit on your porch and watch your dog run away “for miles and miles.”
Awesome stuff there!
* Speaking of visitors, consensus All-American Darius Stills was at practice earlier this week. He said he’s still rehabbing following recent back surgery and turned down an opportunity to sign with the San Francisco 49ers before training camp. He said his agent also recently received a call from the Chicago Bears.
* Sophomore Kaden Prather made a nice over-the-shoulder catch during one drill this morning, and Preston Fox made another long catch for a touchdown later in practice. I tweeted earlier this week that Bryce Ford-Wheaton is the closest thing I’ve seen to Jerry Porter, body wise, well, Fox could be the football reincarnation of John Pennington.
Who can ever forget Pennington’s great touchdown catch right before the end of the first half of the 2003 Pitt game to give West Virginia a 24-24 tie with the Panthers? That score completely changed the complexion of a game the Mountaineers ended up winning 52-31.
Today, John is the head football coach at West Virginia State University.
* You can watch Brown’s press conference in its entirety on WVUsports.com and WVU’s official YouTube channel YouTube.com/wvusports.
* Yesterday, the University of Pittsburgh announced that the 2022 renewal of the Backyard Brawl is officially sold out. The two teams will be playing for the 105th hour, but the first since West Virginia claimed a 21-20 victory at Milan Puskar Stadium in 2011. This morning, the Panthers also announced on social media that a limited number of standing room only tickets will be made available to the general public.