It was a mixed bag during today’s 98-play scrimmage inside Milan Puskar Stadium, according to coach Neal Brown.
“There was a lot of give and take,” he said following today’s two-hour-plus work that included a late start because of a morning rain shower. “I thought the defense started off strong and forced some takeaways, a fumble and two interceptions.
“Then the offense right around the middle rebounded and really ran the ball better and did some really nice things toward the middle of the scrimmage.”
That’s when it put together a 98-yard drive that ended in the end zone when quarterback Jarret Doege connected with Winston Wright Jr. on a 26-yard touchdown pass.
The big play was Leddie Brown’s 38-yard burst up the middle of the field to take the ball to midfield. The junior led all ball carriers with 43 yards on just four carries.
The No. 3 offense, with true freshman quarterback Garrett Greene under center, had two impressive long drives for touchdowns. Greene worked his magic in and out of the pocket completing passes downfield to Middle Tennessee transfer Zack Dobson, who caught four passes for a scrimmage-best 93 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown.
Greene also hooked up with senior running back Lorenzo Dorr on a 12-yard scoring pass later in the scrimmage, and the Tallahassee, Florida, native finished the scrimmage completing 8-of-13 passes for 131 yards, mostly against the threes.
Greene did get an opportunity to take a few snaps with the twos as well.
True freshman running back A’Varius Sparrow ran well with the threes, gaining 38 yards on just three carries, and he also returned a live kickoff for a touchdown.
Redshirt freshman Tony Mathis Jr. and Alec Sinkfield also got a lot of running back reps on Saturday.
“Offensively at the top of the red zone from the 25 down to the 10 it wasn’t very productive,” Brown said. “We had some turnovers, which was a negative. The positive offensively is we are running the football better.”
Defensively, Brown thought the unit performed well at the outset, forcing a Leddie Brown fumble that was recovered by linebacker Dylan Tonkery and also picking off two passes, one an impressive shoestring grab by corner Tae Mayo and the other an over-the-shoulder pick by spear safety Tykee Smith in the end zone.
The defense also managed to get a lot of pressure on West Virginia’s quarterbacks with seven different players getting their hands on the passers this morning. Quarterbacks were wearing gold jerseys and were not permitted to be tackled.
True freshman bandit Lanell Carr, a 6-foot-2, 240-pounder from St. Louis, was credited with three sacks playing against the threes, while Maryland transfer Bryce Brand recorded a pair of sacks.
Darius Stills, VanDarius Cowan, Tavis Lee, Sean Martin and Rhett Heston also got to the quarterbacks this morning.
“I thought the defense played with a lot better energy than we did a week ago,” Brown said. “I was pleased with how they started the scrimmage and how they performed at the very end.”
Two areas where Brown said he was disappointed were penalties and special teams. The three offenses were flagged with several procedure and delay-of-game infractions, while the defense was flagged for a couple of offsides penalties.
Brown said a full Power 5 officiating crew worked today’s scrimmage.
“The ones that are a lack of discipline and lack of concentration are the ones that really hurt you as well as the ones that are selfish,” Brown said of today’s penalties. “We had an unsportsmanlike that took us off a two-minute situation. I’m not okay with that. We had a bunch of procedure penalties, defensive offsides and a couple of delay of games with older quarterbacks, which shouldn’t happen.”
As far as special teams, Brown is seeking considerable improvement in all areas.
“Our special teams just aren’t good enough right now,” he admitted. “We spend a lot of time on those, and that has to be our edge this season. Our effort, concentration and execution was not good enough. We did a lot of special teams live work, and we are going to work those a bunch on Tuesday.”
Overall, Brown summed it up thusly, “When you do a squad scrimmage, there are going to be some things that are really good or you are concerned about one side winning or the other side losing. That’s kind of the way it went today.”
* Brown said he thought the defense performed well in the red zone but gave up some scores down inside the 8-yard line on passes.
The offense was able to run out the clock during the four-minute period but was unsuccessful in doing so during the two-minute, end-of-game situation.
* Brown said he thinks his defense can perform better against the run than it has shown during the first two scrimmages.
“We’re not bad, but I think that’s something we really hang our hat on, and we will continue to get better at that,” he said.
* Promising true freshman center Zach Frazier from Fairmont has been working with the two’s, and Brown said he was solid today.
Brown said three offensive line spots are pretty solid right now with sophomore James Gmiter at left guard, senior Chase Behrndt at center and senior Michael Brown at right guard.
Junior John Hughes has been getting a lot of work at right tackle and a two-way battle is going on between Junior Uzebu and Brandon Yates at left tackle. The other guy in the mix now at tackle is sophomore Briason Mays, who might be the team’s most valuable offensive lineman right now.
The Bolivar, Tennessee, resident can play center, guard or tackle and might crack the lineup, according to Brown.
* Touted Arizona transfer Tony Fields II was on the field this morning playing the mike linebacker position. Brown said Fields was “really active” today.
* Brown cautioned not to read a lot into the depth chart in the media guide posted online yesterday. That was a snapshot of where the team was before preseason camp began, and there has been some movement since then.
* The coach really didn’t have too much to say about the quarterback play when asked after practice.
“They are kind of mixed in there with the ones and the twos. They both did some nice things, and they also did some things today that older quarterbacks shouldn’t do,” he said. “As far as making a decision, we will start having those conversations tomorrow or sometime this week.”
* Senior Evan Staley had several deep kickoffs and was comfortably getting the ball to the goal line.
* The catch of the scrimmage today was made by Morgantown’s Preston Fox, who walked a tight rope along the sideline to grab a 19-yard pass from Greene before falling out of bounds. Fox played at Morgantown High last year.
* Work on the new video board in the south end zone is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 7, I am told. It is much, much bigger than the previous structure.
* Former Mountaineer coach Don Nehlen came out to today’s practice and watched a good portion of the scrimmage sitting in a golf cart in the south end zone.
* The team will have Sunday off and will resume practice on Monday. Brown has targeted next Tuesday as a point when he wants to see significant improvement before he begins pivoting toward work on season-opening opponent Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 12.
The Mountaineers will kick off Big 12 play at Oklahoma State on Saturday, Sept. 26.
Article by John Antonik of WVUSports.com