MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia held its first intra-squad scrimmage of fall camp on Thursday. The Mountaineers are just 21 days away from playing their season opener.
The scrimmage was also WVU’s first performance in Milan Puskar Stadium this fall.
Here are some of the biggest takeaways from Brown’s time with the media.
How the scrimmage worked
As previously stated, Thursday’s scrimmage was the Mountaineers’ first time practicing inside the stadium since fall camp began.
Brown said the defense was allowed to tackle for roughly half of the scrimmage. After that, players were instructed to tag opposing players.
Brown described the practice as “our most intense work” of the fall. The head coach said every player on the team got reps, and some of the younger players got in on special teams.
“Dante would’ve had, probably, three or four sacks. Maybe three, probably,” said Brown.
No quarterback update
Brown once again did not give any indication of who his team’s starting quarterback would be this season during his third pre-season media session.
Further, the head coach said he did not want to discuss the play of the quarterbacks before he got a chance to watch the tape of Thursday’s scrimmage.
Brown did state that each of the four quarterbacks in the competition – Will Crowder, JT Daniels, Garrett Greene, and Nicco Marchiol – received the same number of drives to lead the offense.
The number of plays each quarterback ran, however, was different.
“Plays aren’t, because sometimes you go three-and-out, sometimes you have a long drive,” Brown said. “And that’ll be part of the determining factors, because, at the end of the day, it’s about scoring touchdowns.”
The head coach stated that reps between the quarterbacks will likely stay even for the next week, with the second scrimmage on Thursday, August 18, being when reps will start to change based on performance, and who is most likely to be the Week One starter.
Getting ready for the atmosphere of the Backyard Brawl
If you find yourself walking near the football practice facilities during fall camp, and you time it just right, there is one song on the practice playlist that you will undoubtedly hear.
“We’re just trying to get them ready for the atmosphere,” said Brown.
That song is Neil Diamond’s classic, “Sweet Caroline”. It will be sung by both fan bases on September 1, but with varying lyrics in certain spots, depending on affiliation.
“We’re trying to get them ready for the atmosphere. And, I think when you have rivalries, some of it’s fun, too,” said Brown. “If you remember going back to spring ball we played that. And they did that all summer. So, when we started practice, they were still playing it. It’s fun.”
Rotating on the offensive line
One of the changes during the offseason was a position change for some of the offensive linemen, most notably moving Wyatt Milum from right to left tackle, and expecting Brandon Yates to make the opposite move.
Yates has been in a position battle with Ja’Quay Hubbard for the starting right tackle spot this fall.
Some rotating and shuffling has continued in fall camp, though Brown said that’s partially because of the versatility within the offensive line room.
“You got to have some flexibility because you don’t know what your injury situation is going to be,” said Brown. “Zach (Frazier) can play either guard or center. Jordan White can play all three interior (positions). Both Brandon (Yates) and (Ja’Quay) Hubbard can play guard or tackle. Nick Malone can play guard or tackle. Doug Nester can play guard or tackle.”
Starting left guard James Gmiter was not on the field Thursday, according to Brown. The fourth-year head coach of the Mountaineers expects Gmiter to be back in uniform next week.
Brown detailed the injury as “nothing that’s going to keep him out for a very long time.”
Backup center Jordan White filled in for Gmiter at left guard.
The secondary continues to come together
There continues to be a lot of positive things said about the secondary, which was almost completely remade in the offseason.
As we reported earlier this week, experience was an important factor in the players that Brown and his staff brought in to bolster the room.
“They’re hungry, they’re very humble, and they’re athletic,” said Brown.
According to coaches, North Dakota State transfer Jasir Cox gives the Mountaineers a lot of flexibility. Rashad Ajayi (Colorado State) and Wesley McCormick (JMU) can excel in both man and zone coverages.
“We played more man (coverage) today than we have, and I thought we did a nice job,” said Brown. “Didn’t give up a bunch of big plays, which is important.”
Hershey McLaurin and Andrew Wilson-Lamp, who are expected to provide depth in the secondary, have also been playing well, as of late, according to the head coach.