MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University’s football team took to the practice field for the first official practice of the 2022 college football season on Monday.
The Mountaineers are coming off a 6-7 season in 2021 and an offseason that saw plenty of turnover in all three phases of the game on the WVU roster. Head coach Neal Brown alluded to the fact that more than 30 new players are in the program as of the start of fall camp, either through high school recruiting or via the transfer portal.
But thanks to an addition to the college football offseason schedule in the summer, Brown and the Mountaineers were able to hit the ground running with Day 1 of camp.
“This summer was the first summer that we could have OTAs (organized team activities), and we were able to hold a number of those,” Brown said in his first meeting following practice. “And they paid off.”
According to Brown, West Virginia spent 50 minutes together two times per week doing organized team activities during the summer. There were limitations on what exactly teams could do during the OTA periods, but it was more time that coaches were allowed to be with the players.
“The OTAs were really beneficial,” said Brown. “From a competitive standpoint, you really couldn’t go against anybody. But you could work on alignment assignment.”
What does that mean?
On offense, Brown said, players knew what to do and were more knowledgeable of Graham Harrell’s new scheme at the start of practice. Plus, the things Brown and the coaching staff asked of the players on defense had already been covered throughout the summer.
“I felt like we knew what to do. [I] Didn’t have to slow things down and teach a lot out there today,” said the fourth-year head coach.
While the Mountaineers could get more organized work in this summer compared to years past, Brown and his staff tried to walk a fine line of not overdoing it.
Fundamental and low-speed installations were two of the biggest areas of emphasis during the OTA periods. The practice plan changed when the coaching staff wasn’t in town. At that point, according to Brown, the OTAs became player-led practices.
“I think (the players) really liked it,” said Brown.
Not only did the coaches and players seemingly like them, but the strength and conditioning staff did as well, according to the head coach.
Brown noted that strength and conditioning coach Mike Joseph told him that he and his staff feel that WVU is in a good place both mentally and physically, in part, because of the extra work allowed in the summer.
“(Joseph) really feels strongly that this has been a successful summer. This isn’t something that he just says every year, either,” said Brown.
Brown said that he believes the OTA period will remain moving forward.
Organized team activities have been part of the National Football League’s offseason calendar for many years but have gained even greater importance over the last decade. College coaches are seeing that importance first-hand now.
“The OTAs helped,” said Brown. “I think the OTAs have been positive, without question. We didn’t start today and say this is where you line up. We started like it was (further along in the season). … The NFL gets a lot of things right, and those OTAs have been really good for us.”
West Virginia completed its first practice of the fall on Monday. The Mountaineers will practice the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and then are off on Friday.
Offensive coordinator Graham Harrell is scheduled to speak with the media following practice on Tuesday.
WVU’s season begins on Thursday, September 1, at Accrisure Stadium against Pittsburgh for the revival of the Backyard Brawl.