In the breakdown of his team’s play against Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia head coach Neal Brown mentioned a number of players who saw their first action – or first significant action – in a Mountaineer uniform. Most had a number of bright spots to highlight, which provides optimism for the future. However, there’s more to evaluating a player than just looking at his statistical results.
Rushing and receiving yards, pancake blocks and tackles are all production metrics that definitely carry weight, but Brown’s staff balances that with a play-by-play look at three different points that never change, no matter the opponent or the result of the snap.
“Did they play with the effort we demand? We call that perfect effort,” Brown said as he detailed the items that are assessed for each player on each snap. “Were they physical? Did they do what they were coached to do when it is well-defined? Those are the ways we evaluate every play. They are each graded independently.”
That three-factor assessment provides a standard of grading that each player quickly comes to understand. The level of the opposition doesn’t matter – these standards are all on the individual player to meet. Excel in those three areas, and the prospect of success tends to rise.
There’s another side to evaluations, though, that does involve the opposition. That’s production, or the results of a play. Without question, more players have a chance of gaining yards, executing big blocks or making tackles against Eastern Kentucky than they do against the top tier teams of the Big 12 Conference, especially young players who are just getting their first taste of extended experience. So, in evaluating the results of the game against the Colonels, there is attention paid to those that made things happen, but the fallback points are still the measuring sticks of effort, physicality and execution.
“Does production play a role in playing time? Absolutely,” Brown expanded. “The most productive people at every position play. But as far as the evaluation process, those are the three things, and it’s a ‘by play’ evaluation.”
So, there’s a meshing of those two different methods of measuring play. That combination will determine playing time, if not immediately, then somewhere down the road. More chances to prove themselves on the field will come for those that continue to produce high marks on both sides of the evaluation equation. They’ll be needed, not only because WVU is still a young team in search of better overall play, but also due to the vagaries of COVID-19 testing, which holds the potential to quickly knock out a significant number of players in the days and hours before kickoff.
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Many of the youngsters who stood out to Brown were on the offensive side of the ball, but there was a pair on defense that earned mention.
“Akheem Mesidor got his first action. Daryl Porter, Jr., got in the game and played. He was in there on the third series,” Brown listed.
“Zach Frazier started as a true freshmen and played really well. I thought he set a tone up front for us. He did a nice job with his physicality and playing through the whistle. Sam Brown was productive, he started the game. Charles Finley played, I think, 16 snaps, at tight end and did a nice job. Jordan White played every snap but two in the second half. He’s a guy we think is going to be a really good player down the road for us and he can be a factor as a backup for us this year. Tony Mathis got a bunch of carries in the second half. Reese Smith was a bright spot with four catches and then Graeson got in and made a couple of nice catches too. (Brandon) Yates started as a redshirt freshman. He didn’t get here until fall camp last year, so he’s never gone through a summer conditioning program.”
Call Week One a success. WVU got to play almost every player it wanted to, and in the process produced a number of snaps for each to be evaluated on. Some game experience was gained, adding another notch to the belts of the first-timers’ college logs. Brown is quick to note that while important, that’s just another rung on his “Trust the Climb” ladder
“My comfort level is improving,” Brown said of the play of some of his youngsters. “We have to continue to prove we are better. We have to sustain it against good people in our conference.”