Report Provided by WVU Sports
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Split-squad practice work resumed earlier today following a recovery day on Thursday.
West Virginia coach Neal Brown said he had to push his guys a little harder this morning.
“Coming off a recovery day yesterday, I thought they were slow getting started, but I thought they responded at the end of practice,” he said. ‘It was warm, which we need warm days, but we had some real growth.”
The coach said the morning standouts included wide receiver Sam James, running back Leddie Brown and guard James Gmiter offensively, while Sean Mahone earned some muskets for his work on the defensive side.
“He looked like the best player on the field a couple of different times,” Brown said. ‘He really showed up this morning.”
Brown also mentioned Evan Staley’s work kicking the football during the early practice.
Among the second group, wide receiver Isaiah Esdale performed well, as did Ali Jennings once he got going later in practice.
Safeties Tykee Smith and Noah Guzman stood out, as did defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor.
Brown said he wished all 22 players on the field competed as hard as Smith does, while Mesidor continues to catch his eye.
“He’s been really consistent so far, and I’m excited about him,” Brown said.
“We wanted to push them, and we’re doing it in a smart way because we are going out here short time,” Brown explained. “We’re not really going out here being physical right now so we’re pushing them to mentally be able to push through some fatigue.”
Brown said it’s still going to be a while before his teams start having physical practices. The last time West Virginia players tackled was the TCU game to conclude the 2019 season.
“We’re going to be smart with that,” he said. “We are going into the stadium tomorrow, but it’s not going to be a tackle situation. We are going to move around. I just think we need to get used to practicing with pads on.
“We are going to wear full gear tomorrow, but we’ve got to learn how to practice, and we’ve got to learn how to stay off the ground,” Brown added. “A lot of it is a lot of these guys in our program haven’t practiced the way we want to practice because they haven’t been here.”
Brown said these guys have only had two spring practices and really just two true fall practices wearing shells.
“The first two days were flag football so we’re just learning how to practice,” he said.
Saturday morning’s work inside the stadium will involve more situational football, Brown said.
“We want to get better at situational football, and we’ve talked about it a lot in Zoom settings, and to actually do it is something we need to continue to work on,” he concluded.
Brown is scheduled to have another Zoom meeting with media following Saturday’s morning practice.
Friday Practice Notes …
* One of the deepest positions on the team appears to be wide receiver, where Brown has managed to recruit a variety of players to fill a variety of roles.
“We kind of look at four different body types. We want a guy that’s bigger-framed that has good twitch but really has phenomenal hands,” he said. “We want a little, make-you-miss guy, and we’d like to have a bigger, physical guy inside who knows how to use his body, and then we’d like to have a long, fast guy – somebody that can take the top off it and really go get the ball.”
Brown believes he has all of that covered right now.
“A lot of them are young, and we’ve got to continue to grow ‘em up,” he said. “I think Gerad (Parker) has done a great job with those guys. I think the most depth we have on our football team is at that position.”
Esdale and Jennings made a couple of nice catches during seven-on-sevens with the second group.
* Dreshun Miller had a nice sliding interception in the end zone during seven-on-seven work.
* Alec Sinkfield did a solid job catching punts and kickoffs during the second practice. Brown has said punt return is one area that needs improved this season.
* Strength and conditioning coach Mike Joseph spent team breaks shouting out for players to separate to maintain the proper social distancing.
* WVU President Gordon Gee stopped by for a brief visit with the team during the morning practice.
* According to ESPN.com senior writer and NFL insider Adam Schefter, former Mountaineer wide receiver Tavon Austin is expected to sign with the San Francisco 49ers, pending a physical exam.
Austin appeared in 14 games for the Dallas Cowboys last year, catching 13 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown and rushing six times for 47 yards and one score.
In seven seasons with the Rams and Cowboys after being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, Austin shows 215 catches for 2,006 yards and 15 touchdowns, and 196 rushes for 1,340 yards and 10 scores in 96 games.
Former West Virginia University standout offensive tackle Colton McKivitz is also a member of the 49ers.
Cover Photo Credit: Caleb Saunders- WVU Football