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Asti’s WVU Football Camp Takeaways: Technique Emphasized, Benefit of Depth Noticeable at Key Positions



WVU Football players at practice

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The 2023 Mountaineers are finally all together and out on the practice field. But WVU football head coach Neal Brown now has less than a month to get them ready to kickoff the season with a big game on the road at Penn State.

With Thursday as the first day that fall camp practice was open to members of the media, here are my three key takeaways after seeing West Virginia in action for the first time since the spring.

There’s a Clear Emphasis on WR Footwork

WVU is experiencing as much of a drastic change as far as a position room as possible from one season to the next. Not only did the Mountaineers lose most of their production, but there’s also a new wide receivers coach in Morgantown. Bilal Marshall returned to West Virginia to lead a group of receivers all trying to make a name for themselves.

Marshall is a fiery young coach who tries to blend a likability with the players with a tough “my way or the highway” attitude. That’s on display whenever he’s out on the practice field with his players. His plan to start fall camp seems to be trying to be about footwork.

Marshall put his players through multiple drills with a giant medicine ball to test their ability to stay true to the route while getting around an obstacle. He also had them run in place, explaining that it’s important to stay ready and in position at all times. A master of one-liners, Marshall’s current phrase of the day is “production is all that matters,” something he has a lesson for both football and life.

WVU Plans to Rely on RB Depth

Despite the departure of Tony Mathis, the Mountaineers are still loaded on the ground. Sophomore CJ Donaldson, who emerged as an athletic freak early last season, is back and healthy. Based on now having experience and the belief he is in even better shape, it’s reasonable to expect Donaldson could take his game to another level. But most fans are aware of Donaldson. So what about the others?

“It’s a deep group. They all have unique running styles. We need to see who can do what consistently,” offensive coordinator Chad Scott said about the running back group as a whole.

WVU OC Chad Scott Details Strength of Each RB, Plans to Use as Many Legs as Possible

Scott explained Justin Johnson Jr. has assumed the leadership role left behind by Mathis. He’s the oldest and very willing to help teach his younger teammates. Jaylen Anderson made the most of his opportunities towards the end of the 2022 season, earring him recognition as Big 12 Co-Newcomer of the Week.

But it sounds like besides Donaldson, Scott might actually be the most confident in the freshman who has not actually seen in a game. Scott spoke with excitement when talking about DJ Oliver and Jahiem White.

“He’s a load. I tell him and CJ Donaldson, when defensive guys see #4 and #20, they have to make business decisions.” When asked Oliver’s strength as a runner, Scott emphatically proclaimed Oliver as a guy who can dominate going downhill.

Conversely, Scott knows White is someone who can get by any defender and use his extreme speed to create big plays. Scott went on and on about how good White has looked so far and how fast he truly is.

Linebacker Remains Main Depth Concern for Defense

Replacing Dante Stills is no easy task, but it’s possible the West Virginia defense is actually better off in 2023 than it was a year ago at this time. Incumbent contributors like Sean Martin and Aubrey Burks are stepping up as leaders and additions like Beanie Bishop and Tyrin Bradley are alleviating concerns about depth in the secondary and defensive line that were evident last season.

However, While both Brown and Lesley are confident a freshman like James Heard Jr. can make an immediate impact, it feels as if that might be more of a necessity than a luxury. And it’s tough to rely on a true freshman right away no matter how talented he is.

WVU DC Jordan Lesley Labels Freshman LB James Heard: ‘One of Our Best Pass Rushers’

Lee Kpogba and Jared Bartlett offer most of the experience at linebacker, making it essential that both stay healthy and produce.

Click here for all of our coverage of the WVU football program.

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