Mountaineers focus on mentality in second year of Neal Brown era

Gold and Blue Nation

Last season was a transitional one for WVU football under head coach Neal Brown. 

The Mountaineers spent most of the 2019 offseason and preseason installing new schemes and creating a foundation for the future, but with that framework already laid, Brown’s team has taken a slightly different approach in year two. 

During fall camp, which wrapped up last week, the Mountaineers placed more focus on the mental aspects of the game, which senior defensive lineman Darius Stills called “the small things that make big plays.” 

“Last year, new schemes, new everything, you can’t really get into the mental as much as the playing, but as this year’s gone on, the coaches really harp on the mental part of it, because once you know what to do the first year, applying your mental skills to it makes you just a better football player in general,” Stills said. “So really, it’s just been harping on the small things that make big plays — getting off blocks, hand placement, what gaps you’re supposed to be in — so they’re really just harping on the mental part of the game.” 

On the other side of the ball, veteran wide receiver T.J. Simmons said the Mountaineers are benefitting from an extra year of experience under the head coach. He added that the coaching staff’s commitment to virtual meetings during the college sports stoppage in the spring meant that the team had less ground to make up in August, despite the loss of a spring season.

“During COVID, we had a lot of online meetings, so whenever we did get back to practice, most of the young guys, almost everybody, knew what to do and how to execute plays,” Simmons said. “That’s a complete 360 from last year. So I think now that we’ve got more people that’s been under Coach Brown, it’s running way smoother.” 

West Virginia’s first game week of the season is underway. The Mountaineers host Eastern Kentucky Saturday at noon, and the game will be televised on FS1. 

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