WVU Football Practice Notebook: Mountaineers Off And Running
MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–At a sprint, 110 Mountaineer football players hit the practice field for their first workout of preseason camp Monday morning.
New West Virginia head coach Neal Brown has four weeks to fine tune his club ahead of the season opener against James Madison on Saturday, Aug. 31.
The team worked out Monday in shorts, jerseys and helmets, with a switch from the spring. The offense is wore blue jerseys in practice, while the defense wore white. That’s a reversal from the spring and many previous seasons at WVU. Contact drills in pads won’t begin until next week.
The NCAA allows teams to work with a maximum of 110 players during practice prior to the start of classes. The fall semester at WVU starts Aug. 21, and at that time, the practice roster can expand to whatever Brown wants.
Thus there were a number of walk-ons who weren’t participating in the first day of practice. There were a number of incoming freshmen walk-ons who were involved in Monday’s practice, though – Martinsburg defensive back Michael Boaitey, Colgan, Virginia, defensive lineman Romeo Bowen, Dallas, Texas, wide receiver Freddie Brown, Fairmont defensive lineman Rhett Heston, Towson, Maryland punter Leighton Bechdel, Halifax, Pennsylvania, safety Brock Grosser, Huntington wide receiver Grayson Malashevich and Morgantown offensive linemen Nick Malone,
Of the scholarship recruits who had signed with West Virginia last winter, four had not enrolled at WVU previously. One of those, Las Vegas offensive lineman Brandon Yates, has arrived in Morgantown and was on the field for practice Monday. The other three – safety Rashean Lynn, safety Osita Smith and wide receiver Terence Dotson – have not yet enrolled and are not expected to, at least this year. Dotson was picked in June’s Major League Baseball draft by the Milwaukee Brewers and is pursuing a pro career in that sport. Lynn and Smith will have to take an alternate route to Division I football, as after Monday’s practice Brown explained both will go to junior colleges.
There were a few walking wounded at Monday’s practice. Junior offensive guard Josh Sills had his shoulder wrapped, but he fully participated in practice. Tight ends Jovani Haskins and T.J. Banks both were in green jerseys, indicating their practice work is limited by injury, though each was on the field and going through drills on day one.
No other Mountaineers at practice appear to be dealing with an injury situation. Bandits Charlie Benton and Adam Hensley, and tight end Mike O’Laughlin, who were all limited in the spring as they recovered from knee injuries, each had on knee braces Monday, but all three were participating in drills.
WVU did some non-contact run install at the start of day, and its first offensive line was Colton McKivitz at left tackle, Mike Brown at left guard, Chase Behrndt at center, Josh Sills at right guard and Kelby Wickline at right tackle. The first defensive line on the field included Zach Sandwisch at bandit, Reese Donahue at defensive tackle, Darius Stills at nose guard and Taijh Alston at defensive end. Obviously all jobs are still up in the air, but it’s very hard to envision a starting offensive line without McKivitz and Sills.
A few true freshmen – nose guard Jordan Jefferson, offensive guard Parker Moorer and Malone at tackle – were already rotating in with the second unit.
Transfers George Campbell (receiver), Sean Ryan (receiver), Reuben Jones (defensive line), Alonzo Addae (cornerback) and Jarret Doege (quarterback) all were practicing Monday. WVU officials expect Doege, a transfer from Bowling Green, and Addae, a transfer from New Hampshire, will have to sit out this coming season, but they anticipate the other three will all be eligible this year.
Brown made sure to send a message on intensity and effort early on the first day, as he made them repeat a drill after the team failed to complete the first attempt to his liking.