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. – West Virginia University’s football practice field was bubbling with energy once again.

Tuesday marked the first day of spring practices for the Mountaineers. Head coach Neal Brown said players and coaches had roughly the last week off from offseason workouts to rest ahead of what will be a busy spring.

Although just one practice is in the books, there are already a number of players who are sticking out to Brown and the coaching staff.

As far as established players go, Brown said that Dante Stills and Taijh Alston have had “an exceptional offseason,” and added that their work showed on the first day of spring practice.

Staying on the defensive side of the football, redshirt junior bandit linebacker Jared Bartlett is said to have put on what Brown called “some significant weight.” The head coach added that he had a good first day of practice.

And redshirt senior cornerback Charles Woods made an interception that caught the coaches’ attention.

Offensively, lineman James Gmiter stood out to Brown.

“I thought he was really sound today,” Brown said of the redshirt senior. “His footwork is getting better, his body position is better.”

Running back Tony Mathis, who will see an increased workload this coming season, got off to a good start to the spring in Brown’s eyes. Receivers Bryce Ford-Wheaton and Sam James also had a good day Tuesday, the head coach said.

However, the performance that the players may have been most pleased with came from kicker Casey Legg, who made a field goal attempt towards the end of practice that got the team off the hook from running.

Brown mentioned a few other standouts from the first day of practice.

  • Jalen Thornton, redshirt junior defensive end: “Jaelin Thornton played his best football game in the bowl game against Minnesota., and I thought he followed that up with a sound day today.”
  • Lee Kpogba, transfer redshirt junior linebacker: “I think he has a bright future. He runs. We need his speed at that spot. He did some nice things here in Day One.”
  • Jordan White, redshirt sophomore offensive lineman: “A guy that we need to make a jump, and he’s capable of doing that. I thought he had a nice day.”
  • Brian Polendey, transfer redshirt senior tight end: “He’s running with the ones, because [Mike] O’Laughlin’s out right now. We brought him in to give us some help in the run game, and be able to play in some 12 personnel, and be able to relieve Mike when he get’s tired. And he showed today what we’ve expected. He’s going to be a guy that can help us, and made a couple nice plays in the pass play even.”
  • Preston Fox, redshirt sophomore wide receiver: “Preston Fox made a bunch of plays today. So, Morgantown’s own. He probably made as many catches today as anybody.”
  • Austin Brinkman, redshirt sophomore long snapper: “You don’t hear his name a lot, but he had a really good day today.”