For a young student-athlete, getting early playing time seems like it would be one of the best indicators for how talented they are, what their coaches think of them and how bright their future is.
But just because a young player is talented or thought of highly by their coaches does not mean they should get on the field right away, according to West Virginia offensive coordinator Gerad Parker.
“With any young, special player that has a chance to show great promise, I think the biggest thing is, if you’re not careful with those guys playing game one, that puts a thought in many people’s head, media, parents, family, the player, that maybe that it’s that easy,” Parker said last week.
That was Parker’s response to a question about why true freshman receiver Sam Brown had not played since the team’s opener against Eastern Kentucky. Brown, a surprise commit to the Mountaineers during signing day last December, caught four passes for 48 in his college debut, but had not seen the field against until WVU’s most recent game against Kansas on Saturday.
Brown played against Eastern Kentucky, in part, because 11 other WVU players were serving one-game, team-issued suspensions. Parker said that playing in the opener might not have been fair to Brown, who Parker said is still learning what it takes to be a college football player.
“He’s learning how to practice the right way, he’s learning how to be at lifts at 6 a.m. on time and ready to work and embracing what it really means to be a college football player on a consistent basis,” Parker said. “That’s all he’s doing, he’s growing like any freshman has to.
“Once he breaks those habits and knows what it means to be a consistent, detailed football player on and off the field, I think we’ll all see how special he really is. He is embracing learning what that means and understanding that we’ve got his best interest at heart. Because if we ignore those little things now, they get multiplied later.”
A three-star recruit out of Savannah, Georgia, Brown was WVU’s third-highest rated recruit in the 2020 class according to 247Sports. He had more than 1,000 offensive yards and scored 16 touchdowns as a senior at New Hampstead High School last season.
Parker said the team could benefit in the short-term by playing Brown now, but he and the rest of WVU’s coaching staff is more interested in ensuring Brown can have long-term success.
“What he’s learning is we’re trying to have his best interests at heart for him to form great habits that are going to make him special long-term and not just trying to get him out there on the field and find results on game day in the short-term, which I think is a very slippery slope,” Parker said. “We think very highly of him and he’s just learning how to be a college football player, that’s all. And he’s going to be a very good one.”