Brown Says Many WVU Positions Open To Competition This Week

WVU head coach Neal Brown

Brown Says Many WVU Positions Open To Competition This Week

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–In looking for an improved performance out of his 1-1 football team, first-year Mountaineer coach Neal Brown said many of the jobs on the field will be open to competition this week heading into WVU’s game on Saturday against N.C. State.

“We’re going to give a bunch of guys opportunities on Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Brown of the practice competition. “We’ve got to figure out who the best five are up front (in the offensive line). Outside of (senior left tackle) Colton McKivitz, I’m not real fired up about how any of them are playing. We’re going to give some other guys opportunities, like Briason Mays, John Hughes and James Gmiter. They’re going to get some opportunities up front.

WVU offensive tackle Colton McKivitz (#53) takes his pass set.

“In the backfield, I think (Alec) Sinkfield ran the ball the best of anyone who played on Saturday. Then we get Leddie (Brown) back, and he’s a physical guy. We’re going to let the young wide receivers have a chance; Winston Wright and Ali Jennings are going to play for the first time this week. On defense, (true freshman nose tackle) Jordan Jefferson is going to be a guy we’re going to get more involved. Those are some of those just off the cuff.”

West Virginia’s head coach said his open competition isn’t just talk; he expects it will result in some new starters.

“I do foresee there being some changes in the lineup,” Brown said. “The best way I can tell you is; if you continue to put stuff on video that is not good enough, than changes have to be made. That’s probably the best conclusion you can make on that. If there are changes, that means those guys didn’t put enough quality on tape and/or they’ve been beaten out.”

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West Virginia is going to definitely have to make some adjustments at defensive end, where sophomore Taijh Alston has been lost for the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury in Saturday’s loss at Missouri. Alston underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a torn patella tendon.

“’That’s unfortunate for him,” said Brown of the former junior college transfer. “I thought he was playing well.”

West Virginia had been using Alston in a rotation at defensive end, along with Reuben Jones and Jeffery Pooler. Now down to two in that rotation, Brown did admit that it will limit WVU’s ability to jump into a true four-man defensive front with a pair of d-ends both on the field at the same time. The Mountaineers did that some in the opener against James Madison, but that is an unlikely option moving forward without Alston.

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Brown did provide some good news on the injury front during his Tuesday press conference, though. Sophomore running back Leddie Brown, who had been sidelined by injury the last four weeks, is now healthy enough to return to action.

“He’ll practice full speed this week and will be ready to go on Saturday,” said WVU’s head coach.

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Brown hopes his squad can put together a significantly better performance than the one on display in the 38-7 loss at Missouri this past Saturday.

“We were soundly defeated by a good Missouri team,” he explained. “I think they were clearly better than us on Saturday. I can handle losing – I don’t like it, but I can handle it. What I was disappointed, though, was our inability to do what we were coached to do and our (lack of) physicality. Those were two biggest disappointments for me.”

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Having studied the postmortem of the loss to Mizzou, Brown shared both positive and negative opinions of his club’s performance.

“Special teams, we had an opportunity on the opening kickoff, based on how they were lined up, to steal a position and we hit a poor kick. We didn’t execute, even though it was there,” WVU’s head coach said of the pooch attempt to start the game, which the Tigers easily fielded.

“We continue to be inconsistent punting the ball. It hasn’t been bad, just inconsistent. We have to get a little more distance, so we can flip some field position.

“The positives were they had zero return yards,” Brown added. “I think we had four fair catches, and we had an explosive kickoff return. That unit has blocked well.”

* * * * * *

West Virginia held James Madison to 13 points in the Mountaineers’ opening game win, but then allowed 31 first half points to Mizzou, as the Tigers cruised to a 38-7 victory.

“Defensively, we gave up 232 yards rushing,” Brown noted. “We’re going to struggle to win any game where we give up that many rushing yards. We also had zero takeaways, and we had five missed sacks. There were five times we had (Missouri quarterback) Kelly Bryant behind the line of scrimmage, and I think three of those were on third downs. We had 22 missed tackles in all. Most of those happened on their five consecutive scoring drives in the first and second quarters.

“The positives defensively were we didn’t allow many big plays,” he said. “I also thought our pass coverage was better, maybe as good as it’s been through fall camp and the first two games. Then we competed better in the second half and gave up no (defensive) points.”

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Certainly West Virginia’s offense, which managed just 141 passing yards and 30 rushing yards while being limited to just one late-game touchdown, had a ton of issues in Columbia.

“Offensively, we had three interceptions that led directly to 21 points,” Brown stated. “Our second, third and fourth drives were positive in that each had at least six plays, but two ended in interceptions and one ended with a missed field goal.

“The run game is non-existent. Then we have too many negative yardage plays. Our quarterback got hit way too much.

“Positives, we had zero fumbles, and we were actually pretty good on third downs,” WVU’s head coach concluded.

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West Virginia hopes to turn the page this week as it hosts N.C. State. The noon contest at Mountaineer Field, which will be televised by FS1, is the first time the Wolfpack has played in Morgantown since 1979.

“They are 2-0, and I think Dave Doeren does a fantastic job with that program,” said Brown of N.C. State’s veteran coach. “He’s entering year seven. They’ve done a very good job recruiting and evaluating, because they have quality depth across the board. And they have done a very good job developing guys. They’re a program I look at as far as how they’ve built that up. They are coming off two nine-win seasons, which is the second most wins in the ACC in that time, outside of Clemson. They are well coached and disciplined.”

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As for his own club, Brown reiterated on Tuesday the same theme he used in his postgame press conference on Saturday.

“I was disappointed in our performance, but in no means am I discouraged by the direction we’re going,” he explained.

“Growth occurs in failure, and we failed on Saturday, so it’s time to get better.”

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    Brown Says Many WVU Positions Open To Competition This Week MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–In looking for an improved performance out of his 1-1 football team, fir
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    Interesting that without doing so he really called out Josh Sills.

    That is concerning but supports my thought that their flip flopping he and Behrndt was a poor decision and one that hurt the entire line.


    It does seem like it affected the chemistry. But, at this point, as Moore noted, chemistry isn’t the issue. It’s finding five guys that can do what they are coached to do.

    I didn’t think Josh had a good game. Of course, he’s had a lot of good games, so I don’t think he’s going down the drain or anything. I fully expect him to bounce back and play better.


    With the problems we have on the OL and the lack of depth this team will struggle all year long on O.

    The problems with the D again IMO is with lack of experience in the secondary along with not enough big bodies up front.  The injury on Sat now shows how thin we really are.

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Home Page forums Brown Says Many WVU Positions Open To Competition This Week