Head coach Neal Brown said his team had good energy on the first day of fall camp, marking his first true preseason practice as the 35th leader of the program.
It’s also clear to him that the team has made some strides since spring practices wrapped up.
“We are significantly better as a team right now than we were when we finished in the spring,” Brown said. “A lot of that credit goes to [strength coach] Mike Joseph and his staff, and a lot of credit needs to go to some of our leadership on our football team, because they got quality work in over the summer when the coaches couldn’t work with them.”
After a major transition in the offseason that saw a completely new coaching staff take over the program, Brown added that things that were new to players in the spring have now become routine.
“They know what to expect,” said Brown. “We rode out there for practice today, the new guys — however many we’ve got — those are the only guys that didn’t know. But we had some guys that went through the whole spring with us, they knew kind of what the flow of practice was, those young guys followed them, and it was much crisper.”
But there are several new faces on the WVU roster who participated in their first practice Friday. Brown highlighted those transfers and other newcomers during his first press conference of the preseason:
Brown has noted numerous times that while he wants to build the program through high school recruiting, West Virginia will still welcome transfers.
That was the case this offseason: As Brown and his staff evaluated talent in the spring, they knew the Mountaineers had some big holes to fill.
“I knew our roster was going to change quite a bit,” said Brown. “We weren’t as good as we needed to be in the spring, and not only that, we didn’t have the level of energy I wanted to have on our football team. Our leadership wasn’t as good as it needed to be, and we didn’t have depth. We really had dangerous depth at some positions. And so, we were really active.”
West Virginia landed a pair of graduate transfers from top Power 5 programs that could provide the boost Brown seeks.
On offense, WVU has added George Campbell, a wide receiver from Florida State who should make an immediate impact for the Mountaineers in a position group that lacks experience and depth.
Campbell was one of the top 10 recruits in the country coming out of high school, but an injury ended his redshirt sophomore season early and limited his production as a redshirt junior last season.
“Ya’ll saw it today. He’s got great energy, bounces around and been part of a winning program,” Brown said.
On the other side of the ball, defensive lineman Reuben Jones might remind WVU fans of Jabril Robinson and Kenny Bigelow from a season ago. Jones is a graduate transfer from Michigan who appeared in 16 games after redshirting in his first season.
While Jones was a highly sought after recruit out of high school, Brown noted that “things didn’t go exactly how he wanted them to at Michigan,” and hopes he’ll be productive in gold and blue.
Brown hopes both graduate transfers will make an immediate impact as players and as leaders.
“These guys are all guys that graduated on time, they’re guys that have the talent, but they’re adding something to our locker room,” Brown said.
Other notable incoming transfers include:
- Alonzo Addae, a defensive back from New Hampshire, who is the first cousin of assistant coach Jahmile Addae. He will redshirt this season.
- Noah Guzman, a safety, who transferred from junior college and has three years of eligibility remaining.
- John Hughes, an offensive lineman and another junior college transfer with three years of eligibility. Brown said Hughes will help the team immediately.
Still in limbo
Brown couldn’t provide updates on two other notable transfers.
The status of Jarret Doege — a junior transfer quarterback from Bowling Green who has started in each of the last two seasons — is still up in the air. Doege put up record-setting numbers as a freshman at Bowling Green, and Brown coached his older brother during his stint at Texas Tech.
Brown added that sophomore wide receiver Sean Ryan’s status for the upcoming season is still unknown. Ryan transferred to WVU after playing 11 games at Temple last season, and Brown promised fans will like what they see from the native of Brooklyn, New York.
Both players practiced with the team Friday.
The final member of West Virginia’s 2019 recruiting class reported to camp Thursday. Offensive lineman Brandon Yates participated in his first practice Friday and will wear No. 50 this season.
Brown also spotlighted a pair of walk-ons who worked out with the team over the summer. Brown said offensive lineman Nick Malone, a product of Morgantown High, and Graeson Malashevich, a wide receiver from Huntington, each turned some heads this summer.
Not on the roster
Brown confirmed that WVU signees Osita Smith and Rashean Lynn have not joined the team, and are instead headed to junior college.
Smith, a defensive back, is a four-star recruit from Maryland and was regarded as the top player in West Virginia’s 2019 recruiting class. Lynn, another defensive back, is a three-star recruit from Florida.
As noted during Big 12 Media Days, wide receiver Terence Dotson, another WVU commit, has signed a professional baseball contract after he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in June.