First-year West Virginia University football coach Neal Brown made it clear Tuesday during his weekly press conference that he and his coaching staff were not pleased with the performance they saw from the Mountaineers in the first two games of the 2019 season.
As a result, Brown said, there would be some opportunities for players to move up the depth chart in practice this week. It didn’t take long to find out who made an impression at Tuesday’s practice.
WVU released a revised depth chart Tuesday evening with some new names on top in a few places. The shuffling on the offensive line that began during preseason camp continued with this revised depth chart.
Redshirt freshman Briason Mays is listed as possible starter at center alongside redshirt junior Chase Behrndt. That was after one day of practice this week, so it remains possible the shuffling up front is not finished ahead of Saturday’s visit from North Carolina State (Noon, Fox Sports 1).
“We’re going to find out who the best five are up front,” said Brown. “Outside of [left tackle] Colton McKivitz, I’m not really fired up about how any of them are playing. We’re just going to give some other guys opportunities — Briason Mays, John Hughes, James Gmiter — those guys are going to get some opportunities up front.”
Sophomores Alec Sinkfield and the returning Leddie Brown, who missed West Virginia’s first two games with a right ankle injury, will see more of the ball at running back this week, Brown said. WVU has been among the country’s worst teams when it comes to running the ball through two game with seniors Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway getting the bulk of the carries behind some often suspect blocking.
“I thought Sinkfield ran the ball the best out of any of them that played Saturday and then we get Leddie back,” Brown said. “He’s a physical guy, and that’s one thing I don’t have to worry about with him.”
The WVU coaching staff has not been happy with the job the receivers have been doing to block and help the run game, and when the revised depth chart came out true freshman Winston Wright was listed the starter at the Mountaineers’ “H” receiver position on the inside. Wright is there ahead of Tevin Bush, who was one of WVU’s player of the game award recipients in the season-opening win against James Madison.
“We’re going to let the young wide receivers have a chance,” Brown said. “Winston Wright and [true freshman] Ali Jennings, they’ll play for the first time this week.”
The situation on defense is a somewhat different story. Brown wants to get freshman Jordan Jefferson more involved on the interior of the defensive line, while on the outside the ends are now a man down with Taijh Alston out for the season after Tuesday morning surgery on his right knee. Michigan graduate transfer Reuben Jones and redshirt junior Jeffery Pooler will likely split Alston’s reps, but that also means they have less flexibility to float around and help at the bandit position.
“We’re just going to give a bunch of guys opportunities Tuesday and Wednesday and we’re going to make those jobs competitive,” Brown said.