During this unprecedented preseason, Neal Brown said his coaching staff had two options: adapt or die.
He doesn’t mean the latter in a literal sense — “in this game, dying is losing,” the second year head coach said — but he thinks the Mountaineers have adapted well enough that they’re in position for success now that the first game week of 2020 has arrived.
“We feel like we’ve adapted. Whether it’s COVID protocols, whether it’s practice requirements, whether it’s how we’ve gone about conditioning, any of those things that have been fluid, I think we’ve been able to change,” Brown said. “I really believe your players feed directly off the staff, and if the staff is able to handle things, whether it’s adversity or change, then I think your players handle it, so we’ve tried to set the standard for that.”
The many ways WVU adapted over the summer effectively protected players and coaches, and the data proves it: the Mountaineers completed fall camp without any COVID outbreaks, though the head coach noted during his Monday teleconference that there is at least one active case within the program this week.
West Virginia’s long list of adopted safety protocols includes face shields or cloth masks on helmets, a face covering requirement during all practices and meetings, an outdoor weight room to promote social distancing and regular sanitization of equipment, among other things.
Now that WVU has entered its first game week, Brown is hoping to find a little more normalcy in his team’s routines, but like so many other things, he realizes that game weeks this season will look a lot different than those in previous years.
“We are getting into a routine,” Brown said. “I think this will be very helpful for the staff and for the players.”
But the routine-oriented head coach added that this season has already led to major adjustments for him.
“For planners, this has been a difficult time,” Brown said. “This has been something I’ve learned and been able to just come to grips with during this pandemic — you try to get as much information as you possibly can, you wait as long as you possibly can, you wait as long as you possibly can to make those decisions with the best information at hand, and you go from there, but there are no long range plans. We’ve basically got plans for this week and next week, and that’s about it.”
The plan for this week is straightforward: after months of planning and hoping, it’s time for the Mountaineers to earn their first victory of 2020.
“I think we are ready for our game week,” Brown said. “We’ve stayed relatively well throughout this last three and a half, four weeks. Now it’s time to get to 1-0, and that’s our goal this week.”
The Mountaineers kick off the 2020 season Saturday at noon against Eastern Kentucky at Milan Puskar Stadium. The game will be televised on FS1.