Neal Brown Disappointed In WVU’s Practice On Monday
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia first-year football coach Neal Brown expressed displeasure with how his team practiced on Monday, which was day four of fall camp. That came on the heels of what Brown thought was a good workout session.
“Yesterday was probably the best work we’ve had so far,” he explained of Sunday’s practice. “I thought we really competed well, and we had high points on offense and high points on defense.
“I was really disappointed in today’s work,” continued Brown following Monday’s session. “It was kind of a recovery day. We were out there for true work for about an hour, and I thought it was unfocused. It was probably our most disappointing of the four (practices so far). I just didn’t like our approach. You have to have a mature approach, and I thought we were mentally weak today, four days in. We’ve got to improve that.
“I thought it was very immature and our leadership was lacking,” he added. “It was a little hot and it was day four, and I just didn’t think we responded very well. If you do little things right and you are prepare, good things will happen. But I also think the opposite is true. If you’re not prepared, you’re not taking care of your body and you’re not focused on the details, that ball will find you and you will be exposed. We had some guys exposed today because they weren’t ready to go.
“Also as coaches we have to do a better job of getting them ready to go. That starts with me. We have to get them ready.”
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Brown doesn’t seem to be close to naming a starting quarterback yet.
“I think we have had some highs and some lows,” Brown explained of his QBs. “They are getting more reps than in the spring. Jack (Allison) and Austin (Kendall) probably have the best understanding of what we’re doing right now. It’s a little slower for them. I think our completion percentages and decision-making are up from the spring, which is a positive. I think Trey Lowe had his best day yesterday. It’s slowing down for him, but you still have to remember he’s a freshman. Then (Jarret) Doege has done some positive things. He’s real poised. He’s getting accustomed to how we do things.
“I’m pleased where we’re at, but we still have a long ways to go also.”
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Since Brown was hired by WVU in January, he’s often noted that his crop of running backs is one of the most talented areas he has on this year’s team.
In the first four practices, those running backs also were getting lots of work in the passing game, either flanking out at times or being targeted out of the backfield.
“Coming out of spring we realized that we have some talented running backs and we’re going to have to use them in a variety of ways,” Brown said. “We challenged them, particularly (Alec) Sinkfield and (Kennedy) McKoy, to work on their receiving skills and route running during the summer, and I think they’re going to help us in those spots. They’re going to give us some versatility in what we’re doing offensively. We can stay in the same personnel groupings and present different formations. I’m pleased with where both of those guys are in terms of learning that, and (Martell) Pettaway is getting better at it as well.”
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During some parts of practice so far this fall, West Virginia has two full groups working on opposite ends of the field. One 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 matchup may be going toward the north end zone while simultaneously a mirror workout while be going on at the south end.
“We’re two-spotting in practice, so every team period we have, we have a gold unit and a blue unit, and we’re getting compounded reps,” explained Brown. “Everyone in our program is getting reps right now in all our group and team activities.
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Out of the 110 Mountaineer players on the practice field in camp, 27 of them (16 on offense and 11 on defense) are new to the program this summer. Now it’s a matter of the coaches getting those rookies up to the same speed as the returnees.
“From an install standpoint, we’re throwing a lot at them,” noted Brown. “The older kids are a little further ahead just because they’ve been here.
“I’ve been pleased with some of the athleticism in our freshman class. I like what that group is about. From the time they came in in early June, they’ve handled themselves the right way and they’ve prepared the right way. That’s a good class. It’s too early to determine how many will play (immediately this season), but I do think several will play.”
Brown isn’t ready to separate those newcomers who will see game action right away this season from those who will redshirt, but that decision will be made in relatively short order.
“After our second scrimmage (Aug. 17), we’ll take a couple days where we won’t practice quite as much,” WVU’s head coach said. “Us as coaches, we’ll get together then and plan out our year. The new redshirt rule is great, but there is some strategy that goes with that. You don’t want to just play everybody right out gate, because then if you have injuries later, you don’t have those in the bank. We’ll form those strategies in those 48 hours after our second scrimmage.”
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The NCAA allows FBS football programs to have 85 student-athletes on scholarship each year.
Brown explained Monday that his team is currently not at that 85-scholarship level. Despite utilizing all 25 available scholarship a club can use in any one year – and extending that by two with a pair of “blue shirts” who will count towards next year’s class of 2020 – WVU still isn’t using its full allotment of scholarships.
“We’re going to be at 79 or 80 going into the fall,” said Brown of his team’s scholarship level. “Six of those are former walk-ons who have been put on scholarship.
“We’ll always evaluate our walk-ons at the end of camp if we have guys deserving of being put on scholarship.”
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One special visitor who has stopped in to watch West Virginia’s practice a couple times this week is former Mountaineer receiver Tommy Bowden.
Bowden, who just turned 65, graduated from Morgantown High in 1972 while his father, Bobby Bowden, was WVU’s head coach. After earning his degree from West Virginia in 1977, he followed his dad into the coaching profession. Starting as a graduate assistant at WVU in the fall of 1977, he climbed the coaching ranks before becoming the head coach at Tulane (1997-98) and then Clemson (1999-2008).
Since turning the Tigers over to Dabo Swinney, Tommy has worked as a color analyst on football broadcasts. Now living in Florida, he currently does ACC games for CBS.
His wife, Linda (White), is also from Morgantown, and they typically spend a week each year in their hometown catching up with family and old friends.
Monday Tommy caught up with West Virginia’s current head coach.
“He looked good, didn’t he?” Brown said of Bowden. “He looks young; he got out (of coaching) young. He’s welcome here anytime. He and Vic (Koenning, WVU’s defensive coordinator) and Ron (West, WVU analyst) all worked together at Clemson, so that gave him added incentive to get here.”
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The Mountaineers practiced in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts on Monday. Tuesday they’ll don all the gear and will go full contact for the first time this fall.
“We’re going to have our hardest (practice of camp) tomorrow,” stated Brown. “We’re going to put pads on and do 11-on-11 work. I’m very interested in how we’re going to approach tomorrow.”