MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There’s no culture program inside the Puskar Center, according to WVU football’s head coach.
“I tell you very confidently, and you can talk to the kids, we don’t have a culture problem here,” said West Virginia’s Neal Brown.
Those were the head coach’s comments from April 4. He added that a culture problem within a program isn’t something that can be hidden.
The culture of a program, and the chemistry between its players, are two things that go hand-in-hand.
While chemistry is something that cannot be quantified or shown statistically, all coaches feel it is key.
“My opinion, once again, it is the most important thing in all of sports,” said third-year safeties coach Dontae Wright last week. “That locker room, and the chemistry that you have in that locker room – if it is good, you have a chance to be successful. If it is is average or poor, you got a chance to do nothing at all.”
That’s how the coaches feel. But how do the players feel about the current state of the locker room?
“We’re always together. We have such a good chemistry from defensive back all the way to running back,” said redshirt senior offensive lineman James Gmiter. “It’s a different chemistry, and you don’t want to let that guy down. You want to do everything you can to just make the job easier for them and win the game.”
Gmiter echoed Brown’s statement, saying there’s no concern of a culture program with WVU. He added that the departure of some of the players who left during the offseason has improved the culture in the locker room.
“Now we have a locker room full of guys that are 100 percent in with that,” said Gmiter. “And it just makes it an environment where you’re going to do what you need to do for the guy next to you, for the guy across from you on the other side of the ball. We don’t want to let each other down.”
The closeness and chemistry that Gmiter details don’t apply to only the starters, or those that gain a lot of the attention.
While Gmiter said it goes from defensive back to running back, fellow lineman Nick Malone adds it extends to players who aren’t on scholarship, too.
“Being a walk-on, especially here, you don’t get treated as a walk-on,” said the Morgantown native. “The culture here, everybody’s one, that’s for sure.”
Wright puts it his way, telling his safeties that it’s not about one person, but about buying into one another and the team as a whole.
“If you make it about us, we all have a chance. If you make it about you, good luck to you,” said Wright.
The Mountaineer safeties coach added he’s seeing more players be with each other outside of team activities. He described seeing a group of 30 players or more this offseason, compared to smaller groups of five players in previous years.
That, too, isn’t just a perception by the coaches.
“I got here in , and we really didn’t do much as, like, a team,” said Gmiter. “We had events occasionally, watch the Super Bowl, but ever since Coach Brown got here, he kind of brought in that team-family aspect.”
Defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley said last week he can feel that the defense is tighter now than they have been in the past.
He gave the example of the mutual respect he’s seen between a pair of defensive backs throughout the spring.
NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach was once quoted as saying, “In any sport, the best teams have consistency and chemistry.”
West Virginia’s consistency won’t be seen until the fall, but the chemistry is being felt throughout the locker room already.