MORGANTOWN — The West Virginia University football team resumed preseason work on Monday morning with split-squad practices in shorts and shoulder pads.
Coach Neal Brown said Monday’s work was lighter by design.
“We got some good things accomplished,” he said. “There are two things we’ve got to get better at. We’ve got to strain to finish plays — we’re not good enough there right now — and the second thing is we’ve got to be more physical.”
Brown noted the physicality piece has partly been a function of the type of practices the team has had up to this point.
“But as we get closer, we’ve got to be more physical, and we’re not there yet,” he explained.
He said team leaders and depth chart questions will begin sorting themselves out when the team begins practicing together, which could happen later this week.
Brown explained that the first week of practice was basically a bonus week since the Mountaineers are not opening their season until Sept. 12.
“If we were really opening up on the 12th in a normal situation, camp would have started on a Friday and so that’s how we’re kind of approaching it,” he said. “Now, we are kind of getting into a camp mode. It’s still a lot of situational football and toward the end of the week we hope to get into some full-contact work as we get some test results back and things like that get into where we’re practicing as one team.
Brown cited safeties Jake Long and Sean Mahone for their performance with the first practice group this morning.
He also mentioned cornerback Daryl Porter Jr. made a big pick-six during the first group. Porter is a 5-foot-11-inch, 179-pound true freshman from Fort Lauderdale’s American Heritage High.
Among the second group, Brown mentioned defensive linemen Darius Stills and Jeffery Pooler Jr., who continues to get better.
“He’s changed his body and you can see that from an explosiveness standpoint,” Brown said.
Brown also noted senior Dante Bonamico’s work at safety.
Offensively, Brown said Ali Jennings and Bryce Ford-Wheaton had good practices making some plays down field with the second group.
“That was encouraging,” he said.
The second-year coach also continued to praise the work put forth by senior center Chase Behrndt.
“He has continued to play at a high level, and he’s growing in a leadership role,” Brown said.
Offensive line is still perhaps the biggest unknown on the team this year, and that won’t begin to sort itself out until the two groups come together and begin doing teamwork.
“We haven’t played a whole lot so I think we’ll get better there from a physicality standpoint, pad-leverage and those types of things as we go,” Brown said.
The schedule calls for split-squad practices on Tuesday and Wednesday with a recovery day slated for Thursday. If things go as planned, the team could come together and scrimmage on Saturday.
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