West Virginia coach Neal Brown began Wednesday’s video conference with media with some roster updates.
He noted that offensive lineman Ja’Quay Hubbard and wide receiver Zack Dobson are now practicing with the team, while linebacker Tony Fields is still going through the COVID-19 quarantining process before he will be permitted to join workouts.
Hubbard, a former four-star prospect from Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, appeared in two games at Virginia last year as a true freshman and will have four years of eligibility for the Mountaineers after retaining his freshman year of eligibility.
“He’s a guy that’s long, and I like the way he practices,” Brown said of Hubbard. “He’s hungry so I’m looking forward to seeing how he grows.”
Dobson, a 5-foot-8, 165-pound slot receiver from Knoxville, Tennessee, caught 31 passes for 413 yards and seven touchdowns last season at Middle Tennessee State. He also ran 33 times for 327 yards with another score.
He will have two seasons of eligibility left at WVU.
“I think he’s dynamic with the ball in his hands,” Brown said. “There are some things he’s got to get better at. Once he made his decision (to transfer), one of my mentors in the coaching profession is Tony Franklin, who is the offensive coordinator there at Middle Tennessee State and he didn’t want him to leave. But once (Dobson) made that decision he really believed in the kid and thought he was special.
“Those type of guys who are dynamic with the ball in their hands … we were limited with what we have in our program, and we felt like offensively and in the return game he can add something for us.”
Fields is an all-conference caliber performer who will give the Mountaineers a big boost at the linebacker position. The Las Vegas resident was a Freshman All-American at Arizona in 2017 and last year finished second on the team with 94 total tackles, including 58 unassisted.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder has generated 287 total tackles, 17 tackles for losses, 8 ½ sacks, six pass deflections and a pair of interceptions in 37 career games with the Wildcats. He will have one season of eligibility remaining at WVU.
Brown said split-squad work continued this morning, although both groups were missing several players due to an intestinal virus unrelated to COVID that is going through the team right now.
“A lot of team and situational work,” Brown said. “Basically what we are doing is going Monday, Tuesday and Friday doing a lot of group and individual work, and Wednesday is mostly a team situational type practice. We’re still not tackling to the ground. Then on Saturday, we’re going into the stadium and making it as game-like as we possibly can.”
Today’s practice standouts included safety Sean Mahone, true freshman cornerback Daryl Porter Jr., linebacker Dylan Tonkery and true freshman defensive lineman Ahkeem Mesidor.
Brown said Porter has put in three consecutive days of solid practice work going against sophomore wide receiver Sam James with some the older cornerbacks unavailable for practice.
“For a true freshman, I think he’s holding his own,” Brown said. “I love how he competes.”
Mesidor has also drawn consistent praise from Brown early in camp.
“He shows up,” Brown said. “He’s gifted and a guy that will definitely help us this year. I’m excited about what his future looks like even after this year.”
The offensive standouts Brown mentioned included wide receiver Sam James, center Chase Behrndt, right tackle John Hughes, running backs Tony Mathis Jr. and Lorenzo Dorr and wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton.
Brown also mentioned kicker Evan Staley’s work with special teams.
“He had two subpar days in a row but bounced back today,” Brown said. “I’ve said this numerous times, I think he is going to have a really big bounce-back year. That’s my expectation for him.”
The coach indicated Thursday will be a recovery day before conducting another split-squad scrimmage on Friday.
The team is tentatively scheduled to have a full-squad practice inside the stadium on Saturday. Brown will meet virtually with media following that practice.
The physical portion of camp will begin next week.
“We still have plenty of time before our opener on the 12th,” Brown said. “That’s when true player evaluations will start.”