MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –West Virginia’s football team held an officiated scrimmage Saturday morning inside Mountaineer Field, and for the most part, its head coach was pleased with what he saw.
“There was great weather. We had a full crew of Big 12 officials crew here today, and we laid it down and played,” noted Neal Brown, whose squad has now passed the halfway point in the 15 practice sessions the NCAA allows Division I programs. “We went about 40 plays with the ones and about 40 plays with the twos, all tackle. I thought we had really high energy. I thought our execution for only being seven or eight practices into it was higher. I thought it was a pretty good scrimmage.
“We’re not where we need to be yet from a situational standpoint, but we are getting better.”
Brown pointed out the performances of various individuals and units.
• “I thought (redshirt freshman running back) Tony Mathis had a really nice day today offensively.”
• “Another guy on offense who has had a great spring is (senior wide receiver) Isaiah Esdale. He had a long touchdown today.”
• “I thought our group with our first o-line ran the ball effectively versus our one defense.”
• “I thought our one defense with (junior defensive tackle) Dante Stills was active today. I thought they did a really good job rushing the passer.”
• “Our pass coverage was in really good position and made it tough to throw the ball today. (Junior cornerback) Jackie Matthews has had a good camp so far.”
• “We also did some live special teams, and (sophomore safety) Naim Muhammad showed up. He blocked a punt, which was good to see.”
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West Virginia’s injury situation this spring hasn’t been horrible, but it has some players who haven’t been able to practice at all, and others who were in red (no practice) and green (limited work) jerseys on Saturday.
Kicker Evan Staley and defensive end Jeffery Pooler underwent surgeries in the offseason and are still recovering, so they are limited in their work.
Jairo Faverus, who moved from safety to will linebacker this spring, injured his knee a couple weeks ago. He’s currently in a full brace, and Brown said The Netherlands native will be unavailable the rest of the spring.
Tight end Charles Finley continues to be hampered by a back injury, while wide receiver Sean Ryan was out of Saturday’s practice because of an ankle injury. Will linebacker Exree Loe missed the scrimmage with an illness, and slot receiver Winston Wright was slowed by a calf injury.
On the positive side, redshirt freshman offensive lineman Ja’Quay Hubbard, who was limited during the first couple of weeks of the spring as he recovered from surgery on his shoulder, participated in Saturday’s scrimmage.
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In terms of jersey color, the biggest news wasn’t necessarily who was in red or green but who went from white (offense) to blue (defense).
Devell Washington, a second-year freshman from Saginaw, Michigan, had spent his first year with the Mountaineers at wide receiver, but the 6-foot-3, 212-pounder recently moved over to will linebacker.
“We did that coming back from the (Easter) break,” explained Brown. “Devell came to us and wanted to try it. From a body-standpoint and an ability to do it, I think he can help us.
“He had an interception today. He’s got good awareness, which you need on defense,” added WVU’s coach. “We first noticed he had the attributes to play defense by how he played on special teams last fall. On our scout team for our special teams, he did a really good job – kickoff, punt and punt return. Then he came to us right as we were going into break (about changing positions), so we decided to try it coming back from the break. Our numbers are low at the position (will linebacker). And Exree was out today because he was sick, so it allowed Devell to have quite a few reps there today.”
Playing defense is not completely foreign to Washington. Besides being a wide receiver at Bay City Central (Mich.) High School, he also played free safety.
“I think he has real potential at that position and I think he’ll stick there,” Brown said of Washington’s move to will linebacker. “Especially how we use the will playing outside the box so much, his length is a big attribute. If we were going to recruit a will linebacker, it would look just like Devell. He’s 6-foot-2-plus, 212 to 215 pounds and can be 225 and still move.
“Everything is new for him (at linebacker), because he played safety when he was on defense in high school, but I think he has a high ceiling.”
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West Virginia will conduct three more practice sessions this coming week and then three more the following week before concluding spring drills with the annual Gold/Blue Spring Game on Saturday, April 24.
That Gold/Blue Game at Mountaineer Field will be open to the public with admission of $10 per person. The intrasquad scrimmage will begin at 1 p.m., and the contest will also be televised through Big 12 Now on ESPN+.