Saturday’s scrimmage provided some impressive highlights but also exposed bad habits

Gold and Blue Nation

Head coach Neal Brown shouts directions to his WVU football team at a fall camp practice on Aug 11, 2021. (Photo: Sam Coniglio)

Saturday’s practice on Mountaineer Field was all about finding guys that are ready to compete.

“Good news is we have three weeks to get ready for Maryland,” WVU football head coach Neal Brown said.

This was following a practice inside Milan Puskar Stadium that was completed in between two rainstorms. The head ball coach thought his team did some things really well, but there are also a few areas that got exposed.

Senior running back Leddie Brown didn’t get a lot of work today, but one of the guys competing to be his backup, redshirt sophomore Tony Mathis, is the one that stood out on offense. He had a couple of touchdowns, ran the ball with great balance, and broke tackles.

“His season last year didn’t go the way he wanted it to and he came in as we started January and wanted to know what he had to improve on,” Brown said. “(running backs) Coach (Chad) Scott laid it out, I talked to him, as well, and he came back and has been workout warrior a few times in the offseason, won an award from the weight room staff in the winter, won another in the summer, and he’s been a real bright spot in camp. That’s going to be huge for our football team.”

Redshirt senior quarterback Jarret Doege “continues to be sharp” during camp and the interior part of the offensive line continued to do some good things. Coach Brown also noted that Saturday’s practice wasn’t necessarily designed to feature wide receivers, it was more about finding guys who are on the cusp of playing time.

“Do they play this year? Do they not? Are they ready to be a first-teamer?” Coach Brown said. “Today was about putting pressure on them and seeing how they react.”

Defensively, there was more pressure on the quarterback than there has been all week. Sophomore defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor is “continuing his climb” and the head coach thinks he really has the chance to be a special player this season. Redshirt senior bandit VanDarius Cowan had his best day of camp that included a lot of pressure and a forced fumble. Redshirt freshman d-lineman Lanell Carr, repping with the twos, had some nice one-on-one pass rushes where he won and had a big-time near the two-minute, end-of-half scenario. Lance Dixon also caught the eye of Neal Brown.

One thing that stood out from Brown’s assessment of practice No. 8 was the word penalties — it was used quite often. The end was result was this team needs to be more disciplined. There was a full officiating crew in attendance and coach told them to call things really tight. He said that’s exactly what they did and his team got exposed on some things.

“Today was about exposing some bad habits, honestly. As coaches, we got on the sideline and let them play. We had some mistakes — several procedure penalties, some defensive miscommunication. We have to clean up our tackling, it wasn’t what it needed to be but this was the first day we tackled, as well,” he said.

Brown said he always tells his staff “after the first scrimmage, it starts”. Now, he and the staff have a much better idea of where their squad is really at. Maryland prep officially begins on August 25 and that’s also when they will have a better idea on depth charts and who they plan to redshirt.

With that date in mind, Saturday’s practice was focused on one question: how can this team get better from now until the 24th? Neal Brown and his staff started working on an answer to that question once he left the podium.

“Like I told them (the team) after the scrimmage, the good news is we have three weeks, but now the clock is ticking. We have a real good picture of what we’ve got get better at and now we have to make that improvement with urgency,” Brown said. “We have to get better right now. We have to fix procedure penalties right now. We have to communicate better in the secondary right now.”

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