MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Fourth-year head coach Neal Brown spoke to the media following West Virginia’s fifth practice of fall camp on Saturday.
WVU is now just 26 days away from its season opener.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways from Brown’s latest press conference.
QB battle moves on to Week 2
It has arguably been the biggest topic of conversation surrounding the 130th team in West Virginia University football history.
Nothing has been decided yet, in terms of who the Week 1 starting quarterback will be for the Mountaineers.
All four quarterbacks in the competition – Will “Goose” Crowder, JT Daniels, Garrett Greene, and Nicco Marchiol – have gotten an equal number of reps in practice. The goal is that at least one of the four begins to separate themselves in the coming days, which would change the number of reps given to each in practice.
Here is what Brown said, speaking about all four QBs in a row, when asked about his thoughts on the group, overall, following Saturday’s practice.
On Marchiol: “I thought Nicco threw the ball his best through the five practices. He’s growing.”
On Crowder: “Goose has been solid. He missed the first day, but he’s been out there the last four, and he definitely has some growth.
On Daniels: “JT’s got more experience than all of them.”
On Greene: “Garrett Greene had a great two-minute drive today kind of to finish practice.”
It should be noted that Brown did speak more in-depth about Daniels in response to a later question, speaking highly of Daniels’ knowledge of the game and what he’s done in the film room up to this point.
Depth in the secondary
“Both transfer corners are definitely going to be factors, and they’ll push to be starters,” said Brown, talking about Rashad Ajayi and Wesley McCormick. “They’ll play a lot.”
West Virginia’s secondary was one of the biggest question marks heading into the offseason.
While Charles Woods is one of the best corners in the Big 12, some of the spots around him were up in the air.
According to the head coach, some of the pieces brought in through the transfer portal will play big roles. Ajayi and McCormick are two, Jasir Cox is another.
“We tried to add guys that give could give us some ability to play in different roles,” said Brown. “Rashad and (McCormick) have both played corner, but Wes played safety all in high school. … Jasir can play a back safety, he can play our SPEAR, which is a nickel. He can play even an outside linebacker in some dime packages, so he gives us a lot of flexibility.”
Brown stated the Mountaineers can currently play “up to six guys” in the secondary and feel confident in the production.
The goods and areas of improvement
As with any team, the coaching staff has seen a mix of good things, and not-so-good things through the first week of fall camp.
Overall, Brown has appreciated his team’s energy. Another positive has been where the team is, as a whole, in its fall progression compared to years past.
“Guys that have been in the program more than just this summer, have a really good idea of what to do,” Brown said. “Our fundamentals are above what they normally would be. I think that goes back to those OTAs. So, fundamentally I like where we’re at. Situational knowledge is better, as well.”
On the other side of things, players staying on their feet is something Brown hasn’t seen enough of, thus far. He did attribute some of that to it still being early in camp, and that all players on the roster are still getting a maximum number of reps.
Reps will change in the coming days. Brown hopes players staying on their feet will change, as well.
“We’re on the ground too much for a quality football team,” said Brown, who added that finishing plays is another area that needs to be improved upon.
Schedule moving forward
The first intra-squad scrimmage of the fall will be held on Thursday, August 11. The Mountaineers continue to operate on a “Thursday schedule,” according to the head coach.
West Virginia will suit up with a complete set of pads beginning on Sunday, August 7.
“We’ll get after it pretty good the next two days,” Brown said. “We’re going to go back-to-back hard, physical practices on Sunday and Monday.”
After that, WVU will slow things down for two days in the build-up to the scrimmage.
Brown said he and the coaching staff will assess things after that. No practice is scheduled for Tuesday or Friday.
Brown also stated that the team, which has been solely using the practice fields through the first week of camp, will transition to the field at Milan Puskar Stadium in the near future.