Friday Scrimmage Looms Large For WVU

Friday Scrimmage Looms Large For WVU


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The next few days will be crucial for Neal Brown and his staff as they sort through their players and make decisions on which players will be contributors early in the year.

Most of that work will come after what Brown calls West Virginia’s “biggest scrimmage of the year” on Friday night on Mountaineer Field … and no, it won’t be open to the public or the media.

West Virginia cornerback Hakeem Bailey snares a pass
West Virginia cornerback Hakeem Bailey snares a pass

“I think some guys are starting to make moves,” Brown noted after Wednesday’s practice. “You know coaches always say during the season your biggest improvement is from Week 1 to Week 2. I agree with that during the season but your biggest improvement as a football team happens between your first scrimmage and your second scrimmage.

“We scrimmaged last Saturday and the one will be Friday night under the lights in the stadium. It will be our biggest scrimmage of the year and we will decide who we are going to play with and who we are not going to play with early on.”

Brown, in fact, is hoping to have his unsettled quarterback situation figured out by then, even though no one has taken charge and grabbed the starting job by the throat.

The battle has raged between Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall, who is expected to get the job; former Miami back up Jack Allison, who played behind Will Grier last year and started West Virginia’s Bowl loss to Utah, and Trey Lowe III, who was a redshirt last season after getting just a handful of snaps in the Mountaineers’ bowl game.

WVU has another transfer, Jarret Doege, from Bowling Green, but it appears he is not going to get his request for a waiver that would allow him to be eligible immediately.

“The quarterback battle is still up in the air. All three of those guys did some good things but they put us in some bad spots as far as turning the ball over and taking sacks,” Brown said after Wednesday’s practice.

“We hit a bunch of deep balls today, but we have to be more accurate underneath,” Brown said of the day’s practice. “We have had success throwing deep in camp. All three of those guys throw the deep ball well and we have some length on the outside (to catch it).”

* * * * * *

Brown got even more than he knew he got with LSU graduate transfer punter from Australia, Josh Growden.

The punting he knew about, having done all the short punting for the Tigers.

“He’s the best at putting the ball inside the 10-yard line that I’ve ever been around,” Brown said.

But Growden also has been holding for the placekicker at LSU for three years.

“We didn’t have anyone with experience at that,” Brown admitted, virtually ceding him the job.

* * * * * *

Here’s a name to put on your players to watch, Adam Stilley, a redshirt sophomore offensive tackle from Martinsburg.

“Stilley, you haven’t heard me say his name much but every time we put him in a situation, he performs well. He’s not tall but his arms are really long and he knows the offense probably as well as anybody,” Brown raved.

* * * * * *

Former WVU Coach Don Nehlen, a Hall of Famer, spoke to the Mountaineer team the other day.

West Virginia defensive coordinator Vic Koenning directs his players through a drill
West Virginia defensive coordinator Vic Koenning directs his players through a drill

According to defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, “He talked about as you get better as an individual, the team gets better. As long as its not the old country two-step, one forward and two back, you’ll get better.”

And Koenning sees his defense using that approach.

“We are inching forward,” Koenning said. “I don’t know if we’re making any giant strides. We just go from practice to practice. It’s like when you are raising your kids, you don’t see them make strides because you are with them every day.

“With the neighbor kids, you see them and they are growing. Well, as a coach, you have to be careful to see those small strides they are making … getting better at angles, better footwork on the D-line, better using their hands, better going after the football.

“We’re getting better but we are not by any means where we need to be.”

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