WVU football: 'Hungry' Mountaineers open 'organized chaos' of fall camp

Aug 2, 2023
MORGANTOWN — It’s football season in Morgantown.
West Virginia opened fall camp with its first practice on Wednesday, with the hopes of proving voters in the preseason Big 12 poll wrong and bouncing back from a down 2022 season.
“I like this team. This team’s got kind of a youthful energy about it,” WVU coach Neal Brown said during a post-practice news conference. “They’re excited. They’re a confident group. They’re a group that is really hungry right now, has a chip on their shoulder. They’re fun to coach.
“But I think it’s too early. Today we’re in helmets, it’s 75 degrees, it’s kind of all purple skies and butterflies, so we’ll see how it goes once it gets a little warmer and there’s some contact.”
The Mountaineers went 5-7 last fall and missed out on a bowl game. Expectations are low for the program across the league — WVU was picked last in the 14-team Big 12 preseason poll, which was voted on by media covering the conference.
Brown was brought back amid speculation he could be fired after going 22-25 through four years with just one winning season, but WVU announced in late November he would be retained.
He is now tasked with trying to get the Mountaineers back over the hump while facing one of the toughest schedules in the country.
But while Wednesday marked the start of fall camp, 2023 has been a work in progress through the entire offseason — from filling holes in the roster via the transfer portal, to making adjustments during the spring session, to, most recently, summer organized team activities, of which WVU had 16.
“Exciting time of the year,” Brown said. “It’s a lot different than it used to be. Most of you all are old enough to remember when you couldn’t meet during the summer and didn’t have any OTAs and your first practice was truly your first practice. That’s not the case anymore.”
The OTAs gave WVU “a running start into practice,” according to Brown, who said the first two days are “more mental days than anything” and will be focused on teaching the group how to meet, walk through and practice, and making sure they know signals, alignments and assignments.
“It’s hard to really evaluate guys when we’re just in helmets,” Brown said. “Practice three is when we can put shells on and really can start the evaluation process then.”
Brown referred to the start of camp as “organized chaos” with “a lot of people, a lot of moving parts.” He said they’re two-spotting all the group and team periods, and making sure everybody is getting reps for the first two weeks.
The fifth-year WVU coach said everybody who is supposed to be at camp is, including a group of several newcomers via the transfer portal — most notably along the defensive line, in the secondary and in the receivers corps.
In an injury update during his opening statement, Brown said bandit Brayden Dudley had an offseason surgery and is limited now and the Mountaineers are hopeful he’ll be ready early in the year, if not for the first game.
Highly touted freshman linebacker Josiah Trotter suffered a knee injury in spring and is expected to miss most, if not all, of the 2023 season, but Brown said he’s well into his rehab and “he’s handled it well.”
Defensive lineman Asani Redwood, who missed the spring, is “ahead of schedule,” according to Brown, and Davis Mallinger, who is transitioning to receiver and was out for the spring, “continues to come back from his surgery that he got at the end of last year.”
Preseason All-American center Zach Frazier was limited during the spring, but he was a full participant Wednesday.
Receiver Cortez Braham was limited Wednesday and may be again for the second practice due to illness, but Brown said it’s “nothing serious.”
While a number of positions are up for grabs, the most notable comes at quarterback for an offense in which Brown will return to calling plays. Garrett Greene and Nicco Marchiol are still battling for the starting spot, and Brown said “it’s one day, so ask me next week and I’ll be able to give you a better answer” when asked about them, but added that they have both had good energy and shown growth since last season.
Day 1 is done, and WVU will continue practices over the next month leading up to the Sept. 2 season opener at Penn State.
“The first two and a half weeks of camp is really about preparing for the season and preparing for all of our opponents, anything different that we’re going to see,” Brown said. “Those last two weeks are really prepping for Penn State. That’s how we have it set up.”
Kickoff at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania, is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The season opener will be televised on NBC.

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