West Virginia conducted an 88-play, two-hour, officiated scrimmage this morning inside the stadium under sunny skies and reasonably cool temperatures for mid-August.
It was just the second time since March 12 that the entire team has been together in one setting and it was the first time since last year’s TCU game the team has tackled in a live setting.
There was no simulated noise nor music in the stadium to reflect the atmosphere the team will encounter for its season opener against Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 12.
“We just put the ball down and played a lot today,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said. “Conditioning wise we’re not where we need to be. We ran approximately 40 plays with the ones and twos and 20 with the threes.
“We worked some situations also – two-minute, goal line, third downs and red zones,” he added.
Brown thought the defense performed well in red zone, goal line and quick change situations while the three different offensive units had some success moving the football in open-field situations.
The offense ran the football much more effectively than it did at any time last year during preseason camp with Leddie Brown enjoying most of that success, the junior ripping off one long run down the far sideline and scoring a touchdown during goal-line scrimmaging.
“Leddie was really good today and he is a guy for us to be one of the most improved teams in the country he’s got to be a guy that is consistent for us,” Brown said. “He was more patient today. He finished runs and made guys miss and broke tackles at the second and third levels, which has been a point of emphasis.”
The interior offensive line consisting of guard James Gmiter, center Chase Behrndt and guard Michael Brown were responsible for a good deal of Brown’s success running between the tackles.
Sophomore wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton continues to string together solid practices with another strong showing this afternoon. The Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, resident made a couple of nice long catches and also finished the scrimmage with a touchdown.
“Bryce has had really good days except for one. He’s got talent. He’s got the size and the speed and he’s just got to put it together,” Brown said. “He’s a little bit further ahead than I thought he’d be and he had some big days today.”
Brown mentioned the offensive work put forth by young wide receivers Reese Smith and Graeson Malashevich, who combined to make several tough catches in traffic.
The coach was also pleased that there was no fumbles committed by the three different offensive units that played this afternoon.
The defensive play of the day was made by redshirt freshman Naim Muhammad from Washington, D.C., who made an exceptional one-handed interception at the goal line of a Garrett Greene pass.
Junior outside linebacker Exree Loe picked off an Austin Kendall pass and freshman bandit linebacker Taurus Simmons was credited with a sack.
“I’ve been impressed with Exree,” Brown said. “He’s got talent. He’s gotten his weight up to where it needs to be. For the last two years he’s been one of our best special teams players and he made plays on defense today.”
Brown also cited the play of true freshman defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor and senior middle linebacker Dylan Tonkery.
Brown said Mesidor will be in the defensive line rotation when the season kicks off on Sept. 12 and Tonkery is fitting the runs better and is becoming more comfortable in the defense.
“I even heard him talk a little bit out on the field, which is a positive,” Brown said.
The players will have Sunday off and will resume practicing on Monday. The first day of classes is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, Aug. 26.
Saturday Scrimmage Notes:
* Brown said the last “150-plus” covid tests were all negative.
“I’m fired up about that,” Brown said. “I think that says that our processes are working. But by no means am I getting my pom-poms out and cheering because the next two weekends are going to be critical and that’s what I told our players.”
* Brown indicated right now his squad is more of a “coach-driven team than a player-driven team in terms of leadership” but he hopes that changes. He said it’s not completely there yet.
* Yesterday, senior defensive tackle Darius Stills was named a preseason All-America by CBS Sports and 24/7 Sports.
“I told Darius to prove them right,” Brown said. “If you get accolades you’ve got to prove those people right. And if not picked where you want to be then you’ve got to prove them wrong. I hope our team is really hungry.”
Stills and Arizona transfer Tony Fields were also named to the 250-player Senior Bowl Watch List.
* There were only five penalties during the two-hour scrimmage with all of them going against the offense. Three of those were procedure penalties, something Brown was unhappy about with Friday’s practice.
* Senior Evan Staley successfully kicked two field goals covering distances of 44 and 38 yards.
“Outside of one day, Evan Staley has had a nice fall camp so far,” Brown said.
* Among the punters, Troy transfer Tyler Sumpter appeared to have the best hang time on his kicks. Two years ago, the Birmingham, Alabama, resident averaged an impressive 45.1 yards per punt and made 18 of his 24 field goal attempts as a place kicker for Brown.
* Quarterback Austin Kendall hooked up with Louisville transfer Keion Wakefield for a pretty back-shoulder 23-yard scoring play early in the scrimmage.
Kendall later hit Ford-Wheaton for a 35-yard reception down the middle of the field.
* The longest play of the scrimmage was Leddie Brown’s 43-yard run.
* Senior running back Lorenzo Dorr ripped off a nice 27-yard gainer and also had a nice finish to his run.
* Neal Brown said during his video conference today that the quarterback battle for the opener is likely a two-player contest between Kendall and Doege, but he is extremely high on true freshman quarterback Garrett Greene from Tallahassee, Florida.
And it’s easy to see why.
Greene is extremely athletic with good arm strength and some moxie for a freshman. He performed well today working with the third group in his first-ever college scrimmage.
“I like the way he plays and I like the way he carries himself,” Brown said. “You know how you can take those future bets? He’s the guy you take the future bet on.”
So, how did Florida State let this hometown kid get away? Perhaps it’s because he is just 5-feet-11. Maybe so, but a lack of height will not be an issue with Greene based on what we saw during this morning’s scrimmage.