MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (August 25, 2020) – West Virginia was full-squad and full-go at the Steve Antoline Family Practice Field Tuesday morning.
The Mountaineers went about two hours this morning and used officials for some of the situational team work.
“There was some good and bad,” Mountaineer coach Neal Brown said afterward. “I thought we had really good competition at the start. We did some competitive special teams drills and started the practice off with really good energy.
“Then, we worked on some drive-starter situations where I thought it was really kind of split – two offense won and one defense won when we divided it up. We did some red-zone passing drills and it went about 50-50. There was some open-field run periods and the defense probably got the best of that.”
He continued, “We did some third downs with an emphasis on third and short and the offense was dominant that period and then the goal line period the two offense won and the one defense won. We finished with a four-minute period, which we really just worked on some mechanics. The defense won the period but there was some give and take today, which is what you want to see.”
Brown said he wants to continue to see competitive practices with positive play on both sides of the ball – not skewed to one side as it was on Monday when the defense dominated the practice.
“We’ve got a lot of corrections but a lot of good, teachable moments also,” Brown noted.
Bandit linebacker VanDarius Cowan, who appeared in just two games last year before his season ended with a knee injury against Iowa State, was disruptive out there this morning.
“He has that ability,” Brown said. “He’s got to be more consistent, but he’s shown some flashes here in the last couple of days where I think he’s definitely understanding what his role is, plus he’s been out here. He’s practiced several consecutive days now, and he’s starting to show some signs.”
Senior Jeffery Pooler Jr. continues to play consistently and senior Darius Stills has put together back-to-back dominant defensive performances.
On Monday, the Fairmont resident couldn’t be blocked, and he was disruptive earlier today as well. Stills was recently named to the CBS Sports/247 Sports Preseason All-America Team and is also on the Reese’s Senior Bowl Watch List.
“He’s really performed at a high level, which is what we really expect from him,” Brown said.
Pooler, a fifth-year senior with 28 career games under his belt, has been out there every day putting in good work.
“It’s been three days in a row for him,” Brown said. “The second half of the scrimmage on Saturday and Monday and Tuesday he has really shown improvement. He’s changed his body. He’s quicker. He’s shown the ability to rush off the edge and really be disruptive in the run game.”
Also, redshirt freshman Jalen Thornton, the son of former WVU standout defensive tackle John Thornton, was on the field today getting some reps with the ones.
“He’s a young player. He continues to grow,” Brown said. “His good plays are really positive right now, he’s just got to eliminate those really negative plays so that’s what we’re trying to get out of him is some more consistency.”
Offensively, Brown commended the work put forth today by running backs Leddie Brown and Tony Mathis Jr. during the short yardage period.
He also complimented the play of senior middle linebacker Dylan Tonkery.
Brown said the plan has changed up a little bit this week. The team was originally scheduled to have a Friday evening scrimmage under the lights inside the stadium but that has been pushed back to Saturday morning.
The Mountaineers will be off on Wednesday for the first day of classes and will resume contact work on Thursday. Friday will now be a lighter practice.
Brown said on Monday that he hopes to see continued improvement through next Tuesday.
Tuesday Practice Notes:
* Sophomore Briason Mays is now getting a look at right tackle. The Bolivar, Tennessee, resident started seven games at center last season before giving way to Chase Behrndt.
So far, so good with Mays at right tackle, according to Brown.
“We think he’s got a chance. He’s got the knowledge to be able to play really all of the positions just from his background of being a center,” Brown said. “I think he’s got some potential to help us out there at tackle. He’s got good twitch. He’s got decent length and he’s athletic. He’s done well. We kind of threw him in the fire on Saturday.”
The other guys getting a lot of the practice reps at the two tackle positions are Junior Uzebu, John Hughes and Brandon Yates.
It also appears West Virginia’s interior three of center Behrndt, left guard James Gmiter and right guard Michael Brown are beginning to develop a little cohesiveness working together.
“They’ve played a lot of football together and our expectations for them are high,” Brown said. “We weren’t very good yesterday – those three didn’t perform as well as we’d like them to and they came back today and I thought they were better. They’ve still got a ways to go, but I thought they were better.”
* Neal Brown has said he likes to have four different types of receivers – guys who can take the top off and stretch the field (Sam James), bigger body types with some twitch (Sean Ryan and T.J. Simmons), bigger, physical guys who can catch the ball in traffic (Bryce Ford-Wheaton) and smaller, make-you-miss types out on the perimeter.
Savannah, Georgia, sophomore Winston Wright Jr. appears to be the guy out there in space right now who is making people miss.
He’s definitely got some wiggle and go.
“He’s had two nice days in a row, and we need him to be a player,” Brown said. “I think he has the ability to do that and the last two days have been really positive for him.”
If all four of those wide receiver types Brown wants can produce, then the Mountaineer offense is going to have the entire football field covered this year.
* Danville, Kentucky, native Reese Smith continues to catch anything close to him. Another young receiver who has made some catches in team situations so far this fall is former Morgantown High standout Preston Fox.
Fox turned down some small-school offers to walk on at WVU, and he is making the hometown folks proud.
* True freshman cornerback David Vincent-Okoli is an impressive looking athlete. The 6-foot, 178 pounder from Gaithersburg, Maryland, was West Virginia’s most highly rated recruit this fall, and he has been getting a lot of work with the twos.
Right now, junior Dreshun Miller has probably been the Mountaineers’ most consistent cover corner, but true freshman Daryl Porter Jr. has also been a frequent Neal Brown mention during fall camp.
Senior safety Sean Mahone has been another secondary player Brown has mentioned a lot.
* Some of the younger skill players continue to wear yellow tape on their helmets so the coaches can see where their eyes are when they study the practice footage.
* And finally, West Virginia’s two-point conversion drill is called the “Steeler Drill” because Pittsburgh has become well known in the NFL for its willingness to try two-point plays following touchdowns.