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Asti’s WVU Spring Ball Observations: Devin Carter as Advertised, Evaluation of Defense



Devin Carter and Garrett Greene at WVU football practice.

In what seems like a blink of an eye, WVU football is about half way through its Spring practices.

So with April now here, how does the 2023 version of the Mountaineers look and what storylines have developed that require keeping an eye on moving forward until kickoff of the season.

Devin Carter Has Been as Advertised So Far

West Virginia and Devin Carter both found a perfect match in each other. The Mountaineers were in desperate need of a veteran receiver with college experience after losing most of their production from last season. Carter was in search of a new team to finish his college eligibility and the opportunity to be the number one option of an offense. The marriage between WVU and Carter is working out about as well as either side could have hoped to this point.

Carter has not only looked really good on the field, picking up on the plays and finding chemistry with both Garrett Greene and Nicco Marchiol, but he’s also establishing himself as the leader of the rest of the receivers. According to head coach Neal Brown and wide receivers coach Bilal Marshall, Carter has been assisting the younger receivers and showing them how to conduct themselves, both on and off the field.

He’s providing the offense exactly what it needed and making life much easier for the coaches, at least much easier than if would have been if the receives didn’t have one of their own to follow and look up to. “I think it is critical to have someone who has been a four-year starter and knows what big time football looks like,” Marshall said while explaining how critical it is to have a player like Carter serve as an extension of a coach on the field.

Garrett Greene with More First Team Reps

Among the first words Neal Brown uttered to kickoff the Spring was that he would not be naming a starting quarterback until Fall camp at the earliest. “I’m playing the long game with this,” Brown said. And nothing has happened to suggest anything other than Brown keeping to this plan.

However, it is notable that Greene has had more time working with the first team unit. This is only because Marchiol suffered an undisclosed illness and was forced to miss some practice time. Regardless of the reason, one player getting more reps in than the other can be enough to give him the edge in a competition. Greene remains the favorite to win the job, but again, that won’t be official for awhile and doesn’t mean Marchiol isn’t worthy.

There’s No Ceiling for CJ Donaldson’s Potential

When CJ Donaldson burst onto the scene last season with his performance in the Backyard Brawl in Pittsburgh, few outside the WVU football program knew how to handle such an athletic beast. Fast forward almost a year later and Donaldson isn’t going to surprise anyone.

Neal Brown, WVU Staff Knew They Had to Figure Out a Way to Utilize CJ Donaldson

Donaldson has been limited as he tries to get healthy, but his ability to be elusive as a runner and threat as a pass catcher are all still there. His size makes him someone who is difficult for any defensive player to tackle. Brown did say the only thing that could slow Donaldson down is if he can’t stay in the necessary shape of a featured back.

How Has Going Back to Basics Been for Defense?

Despite major changes to the coaching staff on the offensive side of the ball, the defensive staff stayed in tact after a rough 2022 season. Brown and his defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley started off the Spring session by saying they would be emphasizing getting back to the basics with the defense. They said a lapse in fundamentals is what led to so many explosive plays going against West Virginia a season ago.

WVU DC Jordan Lesley Feels Defense Needs to Perfect Fundamentals

With seven practices completed, Brown was asked directly how the “going back to the basics” strategy has been going? “So I think we’re doing a better job of staying in our gaps defensively and it comes down to pad level and using your hands,” Brown responded. This refers to the two different types of leverage, especially for the defensive line, Brown constantly harps on. He then said he feels the linebackers have “way less wasted movement” as well.

It’s obviously impossible to know how this WVU football team will perform until it gets into game action, and that’s still months away, but a few key pieces are coming together.

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