On Friday afternoon, West Virginia head coach Neal Brown stepped to the podium for the first press conference of the season as the Mountaineers completed their first day of fall camp.
Brown opened the presser by pointing out the injured players that are being treated during camp. TE Mike O’Laughlin is dealing with a minor injury, Bandit Ja’Corey Hammett has an ACL injury that he’s still recovering from, CB Naim Muhammad had off-season surgery and will probably be out for a couple of more weeks.
Brown did point out a recovering Mountaineer as K Evan Staley kicked in the first day of camp. If you remember Staley was injured in the Kansas game last season but now is back on the field for West Virginia.
The third-year coach made a statement on COVID-19 and what effect it will have this season.
“It’s still alive and well, unfortunately. I think that we’re still using a lot of precautions,” Brown said. “Almost every staff member is vaccinated, a high percentage of our team is vaccinated but not everyone and we don’t have 100 percent at this point. So what we are doing is the unvaccinated are wearing masks and we’re being careful.”
Last season, all of college football dealt with the virus but Brown senses a more positive environment this year in the locker room. The players also were able to get in shape all summer and were able to improve on their bodies physically.
“I think we have the best [athletic training and strength conditioning] in the country,” Brown said. “I really do think we’ve made a lot of gains here nutritional.”
Brown stated that QB Jarret Doege and DL Akheem Mesidor have really changed the way their bodies are made up.
“Jarret Doege has changed his body, he’s close to the same weight but the makeup is totally different,” Brown said. “He’s down under 10 percent body fat which is a huge improvement for him and he’s been diligent about it, and Akheem Mesidor has really changed. Those are two guys physically—when you see them out there and helmets run around for the first time—you know there’s a significant difference.”
The Mountaineers have added immediate transfers such as OL Doug Nester (Virginia Tech) and LB Lance Dixon (Penn State) that should make an impact right away. Brown commented on the progress of those two so far this summer.
“Doug [Nester] is a lot more confident in this practice than he was at any point during the spring,” Brown said. “He’s an extremely humble guy and he wanted to make sure that he earned his spot and I think he was a little unsure what we were trying to get him to do but he was a lot more confident today.”
“Athletically, he’s [Lance Dixon] what you want,” Brown said. “He’s got good length, he can run, he’s got to learn the scheme. When he got here in May we weren’t getting the condition because he wouldn’t have a place in the spring, so that’s a work in progress.”
Over the last couple of weeks, the landscape of college athletics has changed with the news of Texas and Oklahoma heading to the SEC in the next few years. Brown was asked about his opinion on it and if he has any concerns about West Virginia getting into a desirable conference if they choose to leave the Big 12.
“I have no crystal ball, I have no idea how it’s going to play out,” Brown said. “What I do know is West Virginia for a really long time has been a bunch of different conferences but played at a high level. The success of our men’s basketball program and our football program will dictate that we’ll be in a good landing spot. Now I can’t project what that will look like for the foreseeable future. We’re in the Big 12, we’re getting ready to play in the Big 12 and we’re happy members there and it’s not going to affect anything we’re doing this year.”
On Saturday the Mountaineers will have fall camp practice open to the public for fan day. Coordinators Gerad Parker and Jordan Lesley will also speak with the media in the early afternoon.
You can watch the entire video of the conference below.