MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For the typical student, the first week of school is rarely viewed as the hardest week, at least curriculum-wise.
Football-wise, WVU head coach Neal Brown said the opposite on Monday. According to Brown, this week is the most difficult, and most critical, of fall camp, and his players are starting to see why.
“Mentally, physically, it’s wearing on people,” defensive back Beanie Bishop said. “But you just got to stay focused.”
In the span of eight days, the WVU football team will play two scrimmages, have three “hard” practices (per Brown), and start the fall semester. The full-time responsibility of being a student-athlete is well underway.
“It’s started, yeah,” wide receiver Cortez Braham said. “Trust me, it’s started. I’m tired but hey, we got to keep going, keep making plays.”
As for what makes for a “hard” practice, Brown indicated that there are more live portions with full tackling drills, often times in full pads. In last Saturday’s scrimmage alone, some first-and-second teamers each took over 50 live reps.
“We do a lot more team periods,” defensive lineman Eddie Vesterinen said. “We focus on just playing ball. We do [fewer individual drills] and just play ball. We do goal line, fourth down, heavy package, tackling a lot. It’s a lot more team downs.”
On the school side of things, the players will have Wednesday off for the first day of classes. They will also have their regularly scheduled off-day on Sunday. Both Braham and Bishop noted they will use the free time to get ahead in classes.
“It’s really physical, and it’s getting closer to school,” Bishop said. “So guys [can] kind of get distracted.”
The physicality part holds massive weight for WVU this fall. Almost every day, players and coaches are talking about the emphasis on physicality, be it in blocking or tackling.
The players who are the most physical this week will likely be the same guys making plays in the dog days of the season.
“You show your physicality and your aggression and just, your will because everyone is sore, banged up, and it just shows how tough are you going to be,” Bishop said. “In Week 4, Week 5, [and] you’ve got a few knicks and bruises, what are you going to do? How are you going to practice? How are you going to prepare? Then, when Saturday comes, how are you going to play? It just shows who we can depend on.”