Nice weather in Morgantown on Saturday brought with it a full scrimmage for the West Virginia University football team, and from it came plenty of takeaways.
A full Big 12 Conference crew officiated the proceedings that consisted of around 40 snaps for the first teams and 40 more plays for the second teams, complete with situational setups and special-teams plays.
“I thought we had really high energy, thought our execution for only being seven, eight practices into it, I thought it was higher and I thought it was a pretty clean scrimmage,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said via a Zoom media call afterward. “We focused on situations. We did opening drive first half, opening drive second half, played two-minute and overtime and then third and fourth down and then played in the red zone for a couple of drives. We’re not where we need to be from situation awareness but I think we’re getting better … we are getting better.”
The spring positional experimentation also continued with one major move of note.
Redshirt wideout Devell Washington brought an idea to the coaching staff earlier in the spring, one in which he made the move to defense. On Saturday, that idea came to fruition on the field as Washington took repetitions at will linebacker.
Linebacker is arguably the thinnest position of any on the current Mountaineer roster. On Saturday, Exree Loe was out with an illness, clearing the way for Washington to earn even more work with the defensive unit.
“We did that coming after the break, that was something that Devell came to us with,” Brown said. “I think he can do that. He had an interception in the scrimmage today. He’s got good awareness as far as playing defensively. We really first noticed that he had the attributes to play defense on special teams in the fall on our scout teams and special teams. He did a really good job on kickoff, on punt, on punt return and then he came to us right when we were going into break and we made that decision coming of out of break to play him at will. He got a bunch of snaps today. Our numbers are low at that position.”
Physically, Washington would certainly seem to fit the bill at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds. Washington did play defense in high school, though it came at defensive back. Although there will undoubtedly be a learning curve, Brown is pleased with what he’s seen so far and believes Washington could be a significant defensive contributor in the near future.
“I think this will stick,” Brown said. “I think he has real potential at that position, especially how we use the will playing outside the box so much. I think his length … if we were going to go out and recruit a will linebacker, it would look just like Devell, honestly. He’s 6-2-plus, he’s 212-215 pounds and can be 225 and still move with the same ability. Everything is new for him because he played safety and didn’t play as much on defense, but I do think he has a high ceiling.”
Brown touched up several highlights from Saturday’s scrimmage.
Senior wideout Isaiah Esdale scored on a long touchdown reception, sophomore Naim Muhammed blocked a punt, Tyler Sumpter hit an overtime field goal and Brown also credited fellow kicker Casey Legg with a key kickoff in a pressure situation.
Maybe most notably, senior safety Scottie Young came up with an interception and a return for touchdown that flashed the promise that the Mountaineers will likely need, especially with the unexpected departure of Tykee Smith, who entered the NCAA transfer portal.
Young transferred in with Tony Fields a year ago, but unlike Fields, Young wasn’t cleared by the NCAA until the bowl game. He’s currently working at both spear and safety, and Brown believes that plays like Saturday’s could be the norm this fall.
“He made a play today, he’s made plays all through the spring,” Brown said. “He’s kind of been a changed guy. He did a great job on scout team [last year], really kind of similar to Alonzo Addae — Alonzo did a great job on scout team [in 2019 before breaking out in 2020], you could really see him getting better, he used the developmental group, and then Scottie followed his same path and really grew from a leadership standpoint so he has a lot of trust from the team.
“He’s been a different guy as a player on the field. Once he was deemed eligible to play in the bowl game I thought he played at a high level in the bowl game. I think he’s followed that up playing both our spear and our safety positions and I think he has a chance to be an upper-level guy in our league.”
n Wide receiver Sean Ryan was held out of Saturday’s scrimmage with a minor ankle injury. Fellow receiver Winston Wright was also limited with a tight calf.
n Starting senior running back Leddie Brown was also held out of full-tackle situations and that is the plan for the entirety of spring practice.