There are only two new faces on the West Virginia football coaching staff this spring, defensive assistants Andrew Jackson and ShaDon Brown. So far through 13 spring practices with the Mountaineers, Jackson (defensive line coach) and Brown (co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach), are making a good first impression in Morgantown.
“I’m really pleased with what both those guys have brought,” head coach Neal Brown said Saturday. “On the field, we have good camaraderie, the chemistry in that room’s really good. They care about their players, which is of the utmost importance to me. They’re really good teachers and they’ve brought some really good schematic ideas to us. And they are both going to make a difference in recruiting as well. I’ve very pleased with those two hires so far.”
Jackson takes over a position that was the strength of WVU’s top-ranked defense in 2020. He thinks they can be just as good again this season.
“I think we, top to bottom, could be one of the best [defensive lines] in the country if we continue to work hard and develop,” Jackson said during his introductory press conference last month. “We’ll see how it goes through spring, kind of get a wholesale evaluation. I want to come in and give all the guys a clean slate and just see what they do without me putting pressure on them. Let the guys do the talking with their pads.”
The leader on WVU’s defensive line is senior Dante Stills. He spoke highly of Jackson’s early work with the Mountaineers this spring.
“I definitely like him,” Stills said. “He’s new into the system like everybody else but already knows a lot of the plays and how everything works. I feel like he’s catching up very quickly and I’m definitely impressed by him.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, ShaDon Brown is tasked with rebuilding a WVU secondary that has lost two starters to the transfer portal this spring. With both Dreshun Miller and Tykee Smith gone, Brown will need to find replacements either already on WVU’s roster or through the transfer portal.
“I give all the players a clean slate because I want them to think it’s a fresh start as well,” Brown said last month. “I don’t want guys to feel like, ‘I don’t have a chance if I wasn’t a starter last year’ or ‘I was a starter last year and I get to coast’. I want it to be where the guys have to compete and I love to see guys that’re in that underdog role raise their level of play and get a chance to make plays.”
One of the most important returners in the secondary, starting cornerback Nicktroy Fortune, said Brown has brought a positive atmosphere to the defensive back room thus far.
“That’s my guy,” Fortune said. “At first, I was kind of a bit unsure, I didn’t really know him, he didn’t really know me. But with time, I realized how cool of a guy he was, he’s funny, he’s never really serious unless he’s coaching us up, we’re always joking, it’s always positive in the room, never negative. I look forward to having a season with him. It’s going to be a good time knowing the kind of guy that he is, he has a lot of humor.”
This is the final week of spring practices for the Mountaineers. The annual Blue-Gold Spring Game will be played at 1 p.m. Saturday in Milan Puskar Stadium and will be broadcast on ESPN+.