Setting the stage for spring football at WVU The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast

Neal Brown is calling it the first "true offseason" for the Mountaineer football program since 2019. The team held its first spring practice Tuesday, and will continue practicing through the Gold-Blue Game on April 23.    In this edition of The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast, Nick Farrell is joined by Mountaineer Football Insider Anjelica Trinone. They breakdown key storylines, position battles and players on the roster who have the most to prove as the next phase of the offseason begins.    Subscribe to The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast, sponsored by Pritt & Spano, to have future episodes delivered to you.    Download the free Gold and Blue Nation app on your favorite Apple or Android device for more football coverage throughout the spring. 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When spring football practice begins next week, there’s a trio of newcomers Neal Brown will be keeping a close eye on.

Of the 13 early enrollees, quarterback Nicco Marchiol, defensive lineman Zeiqui Lawton and linebacker Lee Kpogba headline the list of players the head coach is most looking forward to watching. He believes all three have an opportunity to set themselves apart at their respective positions for a number of different reasons.

Marchiol is one of the most highly touted players in the class of 2022. He earned three separate honors that solidified him as the best high school player in Arizona: the Ed Doherty Award and Gatorade and Max Preps player of the year. After he officially signed with the Mountaineers, Brown said Marchiol has the “it factor” and he’s “intrigued” to see how that will translate to the next level of competition.

“Any quarterback who comes in who has the resume he has then comes and plays early… I’m always intrigued how fast does it take from a quarterback’s perspective for the game to slow down,” Brown said. “He played at a really good high school against really good competition, but he hasn’t played against teams like our defense who he is going to see every day now.”

One of those guys on defense who Brown expects to test Marchiol early is Lawton, who was the No. 2 recruit in West Virginia in 2021. After starting his career at Cincinnati and redshirting as a freshman, he transferred back to his home state. He will have four years of eligibility with the Mountaineer.

His strength and football IQ have already caught the eye of the head coach.

“He’s really hungry because he redshirted last year at Cincinnati,” Brown said. “Because we have guys up there who are going to miss spring, it’s going to create an opportunity for him to really get a lot of reps with our first and second units.”

Starting defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor will miss the spring as he recovers from an injury, while Dante Stills will see limited contact through the 14 practices.

Kpogba has impressed Brown through his work ethic during winter workouts. The linebacker will provide much-needed to depth to a position group that only returns two players who have seen significant playing time. Kpogba comes to WVU after two seasons at Syracuse and a stint at East Mississippi Community College.

“He went to Syracuse, it didn’t work out. He got humbled and went down to East Mississippi Community College and now he’s got this new lease,” Brown said. “He never has a bad day. He’s attacked workouts. He’s really done a nice job learning, so I am excited for him because man, he’s going to get so many reps. We start March 22nd. How much better is he going to get by April 23?”

WVU opens spring practices Tuesday.