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Asti’s WVU Spring Ball Observations: Coaches Take Charge, QB Battle, Standout Players



WVU Football with flag

MORGANTOWN, W.Va – WVU football has only been through a few practices, and only two have been open to the media, to this point, but the differences between this team and last year’s is already evident.

For better or worse, this team has a different vibe than it did when it was entering the 2022 season. In the Spring of 2022 there was pressure on head coach Neal Brown, but not as much as there is now. The hope then surrounded a veteran roster full of players who had either been around awhile or who had experience in general. Fast forward to the present day and this program is trying to get things turned around with a much younger group overall, a lack of experience at key positions and a couple new assistant coaches who have a familiarity with the area and program on their side.

The vibe around this team during the Spring is one of new life and an increase of “juice,” as Brown puts it. Here are my observations so far.

Blaine Stewart and Bilal Marshall Are Ready for Roles

It’s not uncommon for a season below expectations to result in changes to the coaching staff. That certainly happened to WVU football. And while West Virginia decided to keep some continuity by promoting Chad Scott to offensive coordinator, two familiar faces were brought back to the fold who were not around at all last season.

Blaine Stewart talked about leveraging his time with the Steelers to help him with the WVU players and in recruiting, the one aspect of coaching Brown admitted when announcing the hire would be completely new for Stewart. “It opened some eyes,” Stewart said while describing how recruits or even the college players on the West Virginia roster react whenever he goes into detail about his experience coaching NFL players and working under a coach headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Mike Tomlin.

Stewart wanted everyone to know right away that he coached every aspect of the Steelers roster, not just the wide receivers who he was assigned to work with.

Blaine Stewart Leveraging Coaching NFL Players to Help Him at WVU

Like Stewart, wide receivers coach Bilal Marshall is in charge of his own position room at the major conference level for the first time. “They show me they can produce, they’ll eat,” Marshall said when asked how he plans to make all of his offensive weapons happy on a team that plans to utilize its running backs and tight ends in the passing game as well. Marshall set the tone early that he’s the new sheriff in town while also building a closeness with players due to not being too far removed from his own playing days.

Both of these coaches appear to be bringing tons of energy to practice. They are both loud and vocal when instructing players through drills. It’s clear they are in charge when out on the practice field.

QB Competition is Friendly

Whenever two athletes are competing over one starting spot, it’s only natural for that to elicit animosity and maybe ill will. With that said, the battle between Garrett Greene and Nicco Marchiol for the honor of starting Week 1 at State College against Penn State seems to have actually made them closer. Greene and Marchiol are helping each other and acting as friends, both while throwing and doing drills and also in their down time during practice.

To paint this picture even more, they toast each other before drinking Gatorade or water when taking a break. Of course, this doesn’t mean they don’t want to beat out the other. For Greene, this could be his last chance to open a season as WVU football’s number one quarterback after having to sit behind more established transfers Jarret Doege and JT Daniels the past two season. As for Marchiol, he doesn’t want to waste any more eligibility after entering college with tons of hype as a top prospect out of high school in Arizona.

Devin Carter Taking Initiative

There’s no doubt the biggest question surrounding the West Virginia offense, even more so than who will start at quarterback, is about the entirely new group of receivers. Once Bryce Ford-Wheaton decided to enter the NFL Draft, Kaden Prather and Reese Smith transferred, it was obvious the Mountaineers were going to need to find a whole new group for 2023.

Now WVU will rely on a few transfers with mostly mid major backgrounds and poetically true freshman recruits like Rodney Gallagher and Traylon Ray for production through the air. That at least was the case before North Carolina State transfer Devin Carter agreed to spend his final college season in Morgantown. Carter brings years of major conference experience and time as a top threat on a depth chart with him to WVU. And so far Carter has established himself as the leader of that receiver room, on and off the field.

“I think it is critical to have someone who has been a four-year starter and he knows what big time football looks like,” Marshall said to explain how important it is to have a veteran like Carter as the leader of a young group of receivers.

James Heard Looking Like Real Deal

Most of the attention surrounding WVU football’s 2023 recruiting class was about the three and four star players on offense, but linebacker James Heard Jr. could very well be the most underrated member of the class. Rodney Gallagher even shouted out Heard as the quality recruit that deserves more love while appearing on a WVSN show.

This has been evident early in the Spring. Coaches have been yelling about Heard’s burst and aggressiveness during drills. How much playing time he gets as a freshman is uncertain, but he’s doing all he can to impress those who matter so far.

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