Neal Brown forecasts more young players in the WVU lineup in 2020

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COVID-19 could force Mountaineers to insert inexperienced athletes into games

Neal Brown has made a prediction for the upcoming football season: he thinks more young players will appear for WVU this season than ever before. 

The second-year head coach could be left with no choice but to give young players a shot this fall if the Mountaineers endure a string of positive COVID-19 cases at any point. 

“I just think the way the year is gonna be structured, more young people will play than ever,” Brown said. 

The Mountaineer coaching staff is actively preparing those inexperienced athletes. Brown said split-squad practices have provided reps to young players that they wouldn’t get during an ordinary preseason.  

“My assumption is we’ll probably play more just because mentally, they’re ready, and we’re gonna have to be deeper,” Brown said. “There are a lot of negatives to doing the split-squad, but one of the real positives are those guys that are young in our program are getting a lot more reps than they normally would.”

But on top of increasing workloads for coaches, split-squad practices also make it harder to evaluate talent. While increasing reps for young players is a positive, it also creates mismatches for more experienced players, particularly at skill positions. 

Brown said there’s still lots of time to evaluate the roster, though. The Mountaineers still have three and a half weeks to go before the scheduled regular season opener Sept. 12 against Eastern Kentucky. 

“We have plenty of time to get our work in,” Brown said. “We’ll be ready to play when that time comes, but our true evaluations really won’t start until we get into where we’re practicing with the whole team.” 

WVU has opted for split-squad practices during the first two weeks of fall camp as a pandemic-related precaution. Brown said the team will move to full-squad practices soon. 

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