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Neal Brown opens 2022 campaign with the beginning of spring practice 

Football season is within sight, as the 2022 Mountaineers started spring practice today. After the first practice, head coach Neal Brown sat down with the media and talked about his group. 

Brown talked about the players that have stood out in the offseason on the defensive end, and that starts with veterans Dante Stills and Taijh Alston on the line. 

“Dante (Stills) and Taijh Alston, I think have had an exceptional offseason,” Brown said. “They’re significantly stronger at the point of attack and that showed today. I think it’ll really show when we put pads on.” 

Brown also mentioned some other defensive players that had a good offseason, and they are Jalen Thornton, Lee Kpogba, Jared Bartlett, Lance Dixon, and Charles Woods. 

On the offensive end, Brown highlighted the running back room and what he thought of it even after Leddie Brown graduated.  

“I like the room, I really do,” Brown said. “We’re going to miss Leddie Brown. He was a very consistent player for us, but this is the best room we’ve had as far as top-down talent-wise. 

In that running back room, it will feature redshirt junior Tony Mathis, sophomore Justin Johnson, redshirt freshman Jaylen Anderson, and Clemson graduate-transfer Lyn-J Dixon. 

In the final weeks of the 2021 season, Tony Mathis established himself as a potential top back for the Mountaineers in 2022, as he rushed for 118 yards against Kansas and added 56 yards in the bowl loss to Minnesota. 

“I really like the leadership that Tony Mathis is showing,” Brown said. “The game has really slowed down for him. He’s calm, he feels really confident not only running the football, but his route-running is vastly improved.” 

Brown briefly spoke on how they will distribute reps for the quarterbacks. WVU’s quarterback battle features redshirt junior Garrett Greene, redshirt freshman Will Crowder, and true freshman Nicco Marchiol.  

“We’re going to go through the spring and what we’ll do is, we’ll rotate them,” Brown said. “We did it by age initially, so Garrett (Greene) went first today and then Goose (Crowder) and then Nicco (Marchiol). We’ll rotate them through the day. You don’t get exact reps, but you try to get them similar reps.” 

Brown also alluded to what will play into decided which quarterback will be best for the starting job. 

“You chart a lot of things,” Brown said. “Completion percentage, scoring is one of them, decision-making is another, but they all are going to have equal reps and equal opportunity as we move through.” 

A team can’t have a successful quarterback play without a strong offensive line, and coach Brown talked about the group he has on the line and what they’ve accomplished. 

“On the offensive line, we return every starter,” Brown said. “We’ve got two guys that earned All-American status in (Zach) Frazier and (Wyatt) Milum. Those are really good players. Doug Nester played his best football in his career at the end of last year, and he’s had a great offseason. Those guys lift together too, the offensive line and defensive line. They really pushed each other in the offseason.” 

On the defensive end, coach Brown mentioned that they would be looking to add a couple more pieces in the secondary. After Alonzo Addae, Scottie Young, and Sean Mahone graduated, WVU has lost four members of the secondary to the transfer portal. Most recently, Nicktroy Fortune departed the program, and coach Brown was asked how that move changes things. 

“We were going to take two in the secondary regardless of if he (Fortune) was here or not. He made a decision. He didn’t play the last seven games either, so we’ll focus on the ones that are here.” 

Brown also said safety Saint McLeod will miss the entirety of spring practices. McLeod was involved in a stabbing incident on High Street in early March. Coach Brown made sure to give an update on how the safety was doing after the incident. 

“He’s doing well,” Brown said. “I talked to him on Sunday, he’s in good spirits.” 

So, as WVU jumps into spring practices, don’t be surprised if Neal Brown and his staff dip into the transfer portal to make up for the departures in the secondary. 

Photo by WVU Football on Twitter

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