West Virginia football fans got their first look at the Mountaineers in the Gold-Blue spring game on Saturday as the squad’s spring practices culminated in an entertaining afternoon of competition.
This year’s Gold-Blue game took a different tone, as Neal Brown’s squad opted for a mix of drills, scrimmages and contests instead of a traditional spring football game. That gave a lot of different players a chance to shine in the spotlight, even if they weren’t going full speed with 21 other players on the field.
Here’s what we learned about the Mountaineers so far:
Running back room is taking shape
Leddie Brown looks like he has backup this year.
One of the main focuses of the West Virginia coaching staff this spring was developing the spell back spot, as the Mountaineers did not get a satisfactory amount of production there. Of course, Brown took a portion of carries as the top back on Saturday, but a number of other guys got touches to show off their stuff.
A’Varius Sparrow was the afternoon’s leading rusher, notching 50 yards on eight carries and scoring a touchdown. Tony Mathis Jr., the frontrunner for the number two back, only took three carries for a yard, while freshman Markquan Rucker took a trio of runs for 10 yards.
Brown took five carries on the day for 15 yards.
Deuce still has it!
Did you know that Miles “Deuce” McBride played quarterback in high school? You would if you turned on at least one Mountaineer basketball game.
The star guard made a surprise appearance at the Gold-Blue game to dust off his quarterbacking skills, taking on Jarret Doege and Garrett Greene in a halftime quarterback competition. It took a little while for McBride to get his arm back to speed, but he ended the session by dropping a nice corner fade into the net — almost taking the competition from WVU’s *actual* QBs.
Speaking of quarterbacks…
The much-talked about Greene got significant burn in this one as he led the blue squad against Doege’s gold squad. Greene won the yardage battle, notching 103 passing yards on the day.
Doege’s experience was still apparent, though. He was by far the more efficient passer, finishing the day 10-for-14 with 79 yards. Greene completed half of his passes (8-for-16) with an interception.
Both guys showed some wheels, though. Greene’s running ability was well-known, as he showed it in flashes during the fall, but another focus of the coaches was to get Doege’s legs more involved. Although his rushing total wasn’t pretty at -5 yards (he was sacked twice), he was the only signal-caller to find paydirt with his feet.
How about those pass-catchers?
Winston Wright is beginning to look like the top receiving option for West Virginia, but there was a lot of good to see in the rest of the corps, as well.
Freshman Kaden Prather had a breakout performance on the blues with three catches or 62 yards, including a highlight 51-yard streak over the top of the defense. Sam Brown also made a big splash for blue, adding a pair of grabs for 69 yards and a touchdown.
Between the two teams, 12 players caught a total of 22 passes.
This is definitely small sample size to judge the depth at a position group, but there is no doubt that they flashed the potential to provide some strong help in the fall.
Defensive starters settling in to position
Some of the biggest holes for West Virginia to fill before the fall are on the defensive side, with two 2020 starters heading to the NFL and another pair moving on from the program.
Taking a look at Saturday’s blue team, though, it’s clear that Jordan Lesley and his defensive staff have a good idea about which direction they’re going to take that lineup. Although defensive backs tended to move in different positions during the scrimmages, it looks like Alonzo Addae and Nicktroy Fortune will reprise their roles as starters in the fall. The returning Kerry Martin Jr. also took a host of snaps with the blue team, adding a pass break-up, while Jackie Matthews and Scottie Young took the field with the ones and appear to be grooming themselves for starting spots.
There weren’t many surprises in the box, as Taijh Alston made his return to the lineup while Exree Loe took a spot at linebacker. Josh Chandler-Semedo, Dante Stills, Akheem Mesidor and VanDarius Cowan also took the field with the starters, while Chandler-Semedo looked fully comfortable in his mike linebacker position.