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Neal Brown 00504 (copy)

WVU football coach Neal Brown goes over his notes during a preseason practice.

Heading into the West Virginia University football team’s matchup against Eastern Kentucky last Saturday, coach Neal Brown reiterated that one of the team’s goals was to play a large number of players.

Certainly, 11 one-game suspensions doled out before the start of the 56-10 win for the Mountaineers helped even further in that juncture.

“We got a look at a lot of people and we’ll need to continue to do that,” Brown told reporters Tuesday.

But even with the 69 players that took the field for WVU on Saturday, not counting those that were hit with a suspension, there were still a few that Mountaineer fans didn’t see.

Brown gave explanations on a few of those absences.

n A’varius Sparrow, RB: Four running backs played and took carries on Saturday, but Sparrow was not one of them.

One of only two true freshman running backs on the roster (Tyler Consolidated product Markquan Rucker is the other), Sparrow was a three-star recruit out of Orlando, Fla. and drew the praise of Brown and the coaching staff on a few occasions in camp.

In piling up 329 rushing yards, both Leddie Brown and Alec Sinkfield ran for 123 yards, but behind the first two guys on the depth chart is a situation the WVU staff is currently trying to figure out. And apparently, for now, Sparrow is not in that mix.

“He was dressed and eligible to play, we just chose not to play him because we are trying to figure out who that third running back is going to be and we wanted to give Tony Mathis [18 carries, 56 yards on Saturday] an extensive look there,” Brown said. “He had by far the most carries and he was up and down, but he’s got to be better. We gave [Lorenzo] Dorr some carries because he deserved it and so that was the reasoning behind that.”

n Sean Martin, DL: Along with Zach Frazier from Fairmont Senior, Martin, a product of Bluefield High School, was about as highly recruited a prospect as the Mountain State produced last year, earning a three-star rating and a bevy of offers including the likes of Penn State, Oregon and Virginia Tech among others.

Martin had also made quite an impression during camp as well and according to Brown, was a player that he had very much intended to play on Saturday.

But while Martin is currently negative for COVID-19, he was a victim of the pandemic just the same.

“Sean missed the game due to contact tracing,” Brown said. “He’s well, he’s fine, but he missed the game. He was a guy we wanted to play. He really had his best week of practice last week until he was out and he was a guy that was definitely going to play, but still, really excited about him.

“I like his make-up, how he’s worked since he’s been here on campus. He’s going to be a real bright spot for us.”

n Kolton McGhee, P: Senior Tyler Sumpter was responsible for one of the few special teams highlights on the day for WVU, pinning the Colonels inside their own 1-yard line in the first half.

But he’s not the only punter listed on the roster with redshirt freshman McGhee, a three-star from Altoona, Pa., not getting in the game.

McGhee committed all the way back in 2017 and was the first player in the 2019 class. Sometimes, it’s just about opportunity and on Saturday, the Mountaineer offense and a decision to go for it on fourth-and-short cost McGhee his first appearance in a college game.

“Kolton McGhee was a guy I really wanted [to play],” Brown said. “I wanted to get hm in the game and he was going to take every punt we had in the second half; we just didn’t punt the football.”

n Ja’Quay Hubbard, OL/Scottie Young, S: A pair of highly-anticipated transfers didn’t see the field either.

Young, a safety from Arizona and Hubbard, an offensive lineman from Virginia, are both still awaiting a waiver from the NCAA to become eligible this season.

As of Tuesday, Brown didn’t have much to add on if and when that may happen for either of them.

“We haven’t any waivers, I haven’t gotten anything on any of them,” Brown said.

Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pritt@wvgazettemail.com or follow him @RPritt on Twitter.