This summer was a different type of summer for West Virginia football. With the introduction of OTAs, the Mountaineers are hoping the early work has paid off.
Unlike the last three seasons under head coach Neal Brown, this summer he was able to institute a window of OTAs, also known as organized team activity. In this period, West Virginia would spend 50 minutes on football things, twice a week and allowed coaches to be more hands on with the players.
“This summer was the first summer we could have OTAs and we were able to hold a number of those and they paid off,” Brown said on Monday. “From a competitive standpoint you couldn’t really go against anybody, but you could work on alignment assignment.”
Brown said these extra sessions helped prepare his team for practice and he feels like he did not have to say as much to his guys as fall camp began. Brown was able to install basic offensive and defensive packages, helping guys learn earlier than the beginning of August.
In addition, on the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley says the foundation was put down during the summer, which is helping his guys succeed now.
“It’s really good just for your base installation of what you’re trying to do, the foundations of your defense,” Lesley said. “From the call down to the alignment to the key to the technique, and all those little things you’re trying to teach. It gets you ahead as far as the language that you’re speaking in every single drill.”
Lesley knows his defense is going to need those extra sessions if they want to try and mesh together as soon as possible. West Virginia has 33 newcomers this season, and Lesley has many new faces in his linebacker room and in the secondary. With so many new players on his defense, Lesley said it is important to use what they learned in the summer, but not to try and go too fast with the full installation of the defense.
“A lot of times if you hit the ground running, especially with the turnover he’s talking about, if you run too far, then you got to come back. That’s what we try to do with our guys is stay with in what we think we need to be,” Lesley said. “Let’s get really good at that and move on to the next thing when we need to move on to the next thing. I think that approach has been really good for this group.”
For Brown, Lesley, and the rest of the Mountaineers, the extra time during the summer is already paying dividends, but until West Virginia rolls out to Accrisure Stadium on Sept. 1 to play Pittsburgh in the Backyard Brawl.
Photo by Bryan Dougherty, Blue Gold Sports