West Virginia’s football players have been involved in voluntary strength and conditioning drills for about a month now, but next week those workouts will start to ramp up.
The second phase of the return-to-play for Division I college football begins July 13. At that point, Mountaineer coaches can actually work directly with the players for up to eight hours per week in mandatory sessions.
That phase of mandatory workouts, which will entail mainly weight training and conditioning, will last until July 24, when the coaches will be allowed up to 20 hours per week with the student-athletes. That time can be divided with up to eight hours per week devoted to weight training and conditioning, up to six hours of walk-throughs, which may include the use of a football, and up to six hours for meetings, which may include film review, team meetings, position meetings and one-on-one meetings.
It’s expected that most, if not all, of those meetings will be held virtually or in outdoor spaces where the players and staff can socially distance.
The 20-hour weeks (with no more than four hours per day) will continue until Aug. 6. During that 14-day period, the student-athletes are required to get at least two days off.
These summer activities were formulated by the NCAA Division I Oversight Committee, which is chaired by WVU director of athletics Shane Lyons, a few weeks ago to establish a return-to-play schedule for college programs following the three-month shutdown caused by the pandemic.
Preseason football practice is slated to begin Aug. 7, and all rules at that point will be the same as previous years – five days of acclimatization with a total of 25 on-field practices in the 29 days before the first game. There is no hourly maximum during preseason camp until the fall semester starts (for WVU that is Aug. 17) when the weekly limit is 20 hours.
“Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic across the country, we believe this model provides institutions and their student-athletes flexibility to prepare for the upcoming season,” Lyons said.
Of course everything right now seems subject to change because of the coronavirus.
Over the course of the last few weeks, WVU’s athletic department has reported six football players have tested positive for COVID-19 and had to go into self-isolation. Contact tracing identified additional players who were close enough to those infected that they also went into self-quarantine. Others who tested negative, though, have been able to continue their voluntary workouts.
That’s not been the case for West Virginia’s men’s basketball team, though. Voluntary summer workouts for the Mountaineer men’s basketball players was set to start on Monday, July 6, but after five of that program’s 13 players tested positive for the coronavirus, as did one staff member, the start of those workouts was pushed back two weeks. It’s now hoped that those voluntary workouts can begin on July 20.
Though at least five of WVU’s basketball players are now in self-isolation because of COVID, it appears all the Mountaineers are pretty much set to go academically. Bob Huggins’ club is returning 10 players from last season – Jalen Bridges, Derek Culver, Spencer Macke, Emmitt Matthews, Deuce McBride, Jordan McCabe, Sean McNeil, Gabe Osabuohien, Taz Sherman and Oscar Tshiebwe. In addition the two incoming freshmen who signed with the Mountaineers – Isaiah Cottrell and Taj Thweatt – enrolled for classes at WVU last month, though all classes this summer at the University are being conducted online. That left just junior college transfer Kedrian Johnson as the only scholarship newcomer not yet enrolled at WVU, but reportedly the Dallas native has cleared all academic hurdles and will soon begin his class work at West Virginia as well.
On the football side, all the class of 2020 scholarship signees started their online classes with WVU last month. In addition, freshman linebacker James Thomas of Mitchell County (Ga.) High School, reportedly is expected to begin his academic work at West Virginia soon, and the same is true for transfers Scottie Young (a safety from the University of Arizona) and Joseph Boletepeli (a defensive end from N.C. State). Two other potential Mountaineer transfers, defensive lineman Bryce Brand from the University of Maryland and punter Tyler Sumpter from Troy University, are reportedly in the process of finalizing their admission to WVU.