Big day for defense, plus other takeaways from WVU’s latest practice

Gold and Blue Nation

Head coach shares another update on team's progress

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Practice No. 11 is in the books for WVU football. 

Head coach Neal Brown provided an update on the squad’s offense, defense and special teams during his most recent media session. You can watch that press conference at the top of this page, and read a breakdown below:

Defense

It was a big day for this unit, according to the man in charge. 

“Thought our defense was really solid in the red zone — minus one play — all day. Probably our best day overall defensively that we’ve had in camp, which is a positive,” Brown said. “Glad to see that.” 

The Mountaineer defense took great strides forward last season, ranking first among Power 5 programs in total defense. But while Brown is seeing more positives from that unit, it’s impossible to evaluate everything in the preseason, particularly pass rush in limited contact situations. 

Still, Brown tabbed redshirt freshman defensive lineman Lanell Carr as the squad’s “best natural pass rusher,” adding that senior Dante Stills, redshirt junior Taijh Alston and sophomore Akheem Mesidor continue to show promise in that department. 

Offense 

Teammates on both sides of the ball have noted substantial improvement from quarterback Jarret Doege, but he may not be asked to be the star of the show this season. 

“Leddie Brown, we’re gonna run our offense through him,” Brown said. “I think he’s the one guy that’s really proven that he can go out and win games.” 

Neal Brown expects the aerial attack to improve this season, and was pleased with what it produced a year ago, but he thinks his senior running back will be the offense’s engine. 

“I do think that our quarterback and receivers are much improved, but our offense is gonna run through Leddie,” Neal Brown said. 

As for Doege, Neal Brown said the starting QB has played “really well all camp,” but indicated that he struggled during the first half of Tuesday’s practice. 

Special Teams

The kicking competition continues for WVU.

Redshirt senior Evan Staley is kicking again after his 2020 season ended early due to an injury. He’s competing against redshirt junior Casey Legg and redshirt senior Tyler Sumpter for the team’s kicking duties. 

Neal Brown said Legg has been the most consistent kicker in the competition, but added that Staley has done an admirable job after returning from injury. 

Sumpter handled both kicking and punting duties at the end of last season, and did so for two full seasons at Troy. The head coach said he won’t limit Sumpter to one role if he emerges from that competition as the winner. 

“If he wins both jobs, he wins both jobs,” Neal Brown said. 

Quick hits

  • Brown noted that Tony Mathis, the apparent front runner to become West Virginia’s backup running back, missed Tuesday’s practice with a “minor” injury.
  • WVU is set for an off day Wednesday as the university holds its first day of classes for the fall term.
  • Brown said the football program will remain in “camp mode” for one more week. Then, after Aug. 24, attention will begin to shift to game prep for the 2021 opener at Maryland. 

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