The 2022 season is about to kick off for West Virginia — at least, the spring season is.

Head coach Neal Brown is set to kick off his fourth spring season (his third full season) at the Mountaineers’ helm, and this year, he’s taking a slightly different approach. WVU has a lot of question marks looming of its roster, and Brown hopes to turn at least some of those into answers before April 23’s Gold-Blue Spring Game.

Here’s what Brown had to say before he and his team embarked on another spring:

Previewing the QB battle

Jarret Doege’s departure leaves the door open for a new face to step in and call the signals. With six months to go until the 2022 season, Brown has three guys to choose from, and they all have something different to offer: speedy sophomore Garrett Greene, pass-first freshman Will “Goose” Crowder, and Nicco Marchiol, the newest and most highly-touted quarterback prospect at WVU in several seasons.

Brown isn’t just limiting his prospects to those three, either. He wasn’t shy to say that if he isn’t able to find a guy (or two) that sets himself apart, then they will bring in another new quarterback.

“There will be guys available, but I thought it was important for them and important for the trajectory of our football team to let those guys have the ability in the spring, so we’ll do that,” Brown said.

There has been quite a bit of buzz around Marchiol, who enrolled in January after earning a host of awards as one of, if not the top player in Arizona. Even Brown is looking forward to seeing what he can bring to the table — especially if he gets the nod in year one.

“I’m intrigued to see how Nicco– not just because it’s him, but because any other quarterback that has the resume that he has, and then comes in and plays early,” “I’m always intrigued, how fast does it take from a quarterback perspective for the game to slow down. And he played at a really good high school against really good competition, but he wasn’t playing against teams like our defense.”

Brown has no doubt, though, that he will get a solid leader calling the signals this season.

“The good thing about those three is they’re kind of alpha mentalities,” he added. “If you were in there…watching that workout this morning, a guy that would stick out to you is Garret Greene….If you had no ideas who any of those kids were, you’d have been like, ‘Who’s that, who’s that guy running around?’ And then, the way Nicco and Goose both, the way they carry themselves, they kind of draw people.”

Roster management in a new era of college athletics

Brown’s program was hit with a wave of transfers both during and after the 2021 season. As recently as a week before Tuesday’s conference, the Mountaineers were dealt a blow when leading tackler Josh Chandler-Semedo signaled his intention to move on from the program for his last season.

From Brown’s perspective, most of these moves aren’t detrimental. In fact, he expects it, as he sees it as a byproduct of recent shifts in the landscape of college football.

Brown and his staff now spend every day analyzing the roster they have and try to identify “potential flight risks.” In other words, he says they have to do their best at simply “assuming” based on a plethora of reasons both on and off the field.

“In most cases you hope it doesn’t happen, but you’ve still got to plan,” Brown said. “The ones that are really hard are the ones that come out of left field, and to our credit, we’ve probably had two of those that just, I get an email from compliance saying somebody went over there….But most of these…aren’t blindside deals.”

At the same time, WVU has benefitted from incoming transfers as well, such as running back Lyn-J Dixon from Clemson, Cincinnati defensive end Zeiqui Lawton and JUCO linebacker Lee Kpogba.

Right now, Brown has 74 spots on his roster filled — 62 on scholarship, plus 12 signees — with seven more he expects to fill by the summer, if not by week one. Then again, he expects another “wave of significant people in the transfer portal” after the spring is over.

Roster management is one of the most important aspects in college football now as team facilities across the country turn into more of a revolving door.

“I’m not inherently against the transfer portal, I’m not….Just like everybody in the country that decides to do business in there, you’re going to gain some and you’re going to lose some. Where we’ve got to get to is we’ve got to make roster management to where it’s really, truly manageable,” Brown said. “These are talks that are ongoing…is we’ve got to get into windows. First of all, let’s call it what it is, it’s free agency. In what other sport do you have free agency year-round? The answer to that would be one, college athletics, and so we’ve got to get it into windows, and it has to be feasible for the student-athlete, and for the school.”

Setting goals for the spring

WVU’s 2022 spring season will look a lot different than its season in 2021.

For one, Brown has his full squad to start the season (a COVID-19 outbreak sidelined around 30 of WVU’s players at the end of February). Second, WVU enters the spring on the heels of a loss after a painful performance in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl against Minnesota in December.

“I think any time you play that bad, it’s really a crisis, and I really believe that you never waste a good crisis,” Brown said.

WVU has different goals this spring compared to springs past. One major key for WVU is play install under its new offensive coordinator, Graham Harrell. Luckily, Harrell comes from the same coaching tree as Brown, so he says they won’t be starting “at ground zero.”

“We really worked a lot of situational football [in the past], it will probably be less of that offensively, more of just getting some reps with the plays and trying to create some muscle memory,” Brown said.

Additionally, WVU will focus more on fundamentals, especially “up front in the run game.”