WVU football is a week into its spring practice, and they’ve been working toward the season opener at Pitt.
Here’s what Neal Brown had to say after day four:
Putting on the pressure
2022 won’t start easily for the Mountaineers, who open their next campaign with two prime time rivalry games on the road in the first four weeks.
Brown and WVU had a similar test to start 2021 when they traveled to Maryland for the season opener, but had a disappointing ride home after falling 30-24.
“I don’t think as a staff or as a team in the build-up into Maryland,” Brown said. “We just didn’t play very well.”
With much more hanging in the balance in the 2022 opener against Pitt, Brown says he and his staff are stressing the importance of that matchup on a daily basis. He says that they are being “intentional” with their preparation so they can build a sense of urgency.
A big part of that goes hand-in-hand with one of Brown’s overarching goals for the spring, which is to hone in on fundamentals. His squad is full of players of varied experience levels, many of whom haven’t had the chance to compete in a packed stadium or in a big-time rivalry game.
This spring, Brown is working to simulate those high-pressure situations so his players can keep their fundamentals when it is the most difficult. Through a week, the Mountaineers have had a mixed bag of progress.
“Obviously we don’t have fans in the stands for the most part, but we try to create these pressure situations because we want to make sure your fundamentals uphold that pressure,” Brown said. “I thought they did a nice job of that on Saturday. I thought offensively, particularly today, I thoguht we lost some of our fundamental training that we’ve been striving for.”
Consistency and growth in the wide receivers
Brown spoke very highly of his wide receiver corps.
The position group will be led by seniors Bryce Ford-Wheaton and Sam James, who Brown has routinely praised as “consistent” throughout the spring. In fact, the head coach said that Ford-Wheaton had possibly his best practice as a Mountaineer on Tuesday.
Behind them, though, sit a platoon of unproven talent. Sophomores Kaden Prather and Preston Fox have been performing during the first week of practice, and could be in the running for more playing time. Fox, who caught just one pass in 2021, has wowed the coaching staff with his hands. Prather, on the other hand, showed some promise as a freshman, and has had three “really good days” this spring.
“He took a step back today, but I think he’s on the verge of being a special-type player,” Brown said.
Reese Smith had a good start to camp, but sustained a minor injury and will miss about a week. That opened up some opportunity for freshman Jarel Williams in practice, and Brown says that he’s “taking advantage of those reps.”
Looking ahead to Pro Day
Tuesday is also a big day for WVU alumni as the program welcomes some professional scouts to campus for the 2022 Pro Day.
Leddie Brown headlines the list of six Mountaineers who will showcase their skills to try to get some added exposure for the NFL ahead of the NFL Draft on April 28.
“I think it’s something obviously that’s significant for these six individuals,” Neal Brown said.
The head coach said that his number one goal is to get all his players to graduate, and he says he’s done that at a 100 percent rate. Next, he wants to place his players, and of course, for football players, the best placement for a first job is the NFL.
Leddie Brown is the most likely to get a rookie contract, and will get a second look at Pro Day after performing at the NFL Combine. The other five — Alonzo Addae, Sean Mahone, Scottie Young, Evan Staley and Tyler Sumpter — will all get their first shot in front of the scouts.
“This is the main piece of them proving that they’re ready to play at the National Football League, or one of the other leagues,” Brown said.