MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Day 4 into coach Neal Brown’s first camp and the honeymoon is over.
“I’m really disappointed in today’s workout,” he said on Monday. “It’s a recovery day and we were out there for true work for about an hour and I thought it was unfocused. It was probably the most disappointing of the four.”
There really wasn’t anything specific Brown could point a finger at, just general camp malaise.
“We got to get better. I just didn’t like our approach,” he said. “I thought we were mentally weak today. So we have to improve that.”
When asked for particulars, Brown cited a number of minor issues.
“I didn’t like our mental approach. I thought our leadership was lacking. We’re Day 4 into it and I didn’t think we responded well.”
This is the way Brown looks at it.
“If you are prepared and do the little things right, good things are going to happen. But the opposite is true, too,” he said. “If you’re not mentally prepared, if you’re not taking care of your body, if you’re not focusing on details, that ball will find you and you will be exposed.”
Brown expressed his disappointment in two areas, especially.
“First with the guys who have played a lot of snaps, they should be able to overcome a little adversity whether it’s the number of practices, a little fatigue or coach-created adversity,” he said.
“Then we have some younger guys who are in transition. Maybe they are just out of high school, maybe they redshirted, maybe they transferred, but where we’re at as a program they are going to be counted on. I told them that. Their development has to be fast forwarded. Whether they like it or not, whether the coaches like it or not, it is what it is. They are going to be on fast forward, and, to do that, they have to attack every single day to get better.”
It is those young players — the freshmen — Brown is really trying to develop quickly.
“I’m pleased with some of the athleticism in our freshman class,” he said. “I like what that group is about. From the time they came in in early June until now, they have handled themselves the right way. They prepared the right way. That’s a good class.
“Where they are football-wise is yet to be determined. How many are going to play? I don’t know, but there will be several, though.”
Under Brown, WVU opens it practice with competition, and there is a method to the madness.
“I make this statement sometimes: We’re the only game where you warm up, then go sit for 20 minutes in the locker room, and then come out and play. So we try to simulate it in practice where we try to give them something full speed immediately.
“Later on, like tomorrow, we have a full speed 11 on 11 drill right out of the gate. It makes them have to be ready.”
One of the really good battles right out of the locker room was speedy young receiver Sam James against the team’s best cornerback, Keith Washington Jr. Brown proclaimed Washington the winner there.
Then they had one on one pass coverage by linebacker Tykee Smith on running back Alec Sinkfield.
“They battled. Tykee had tight coverage, but (quarterback) Jack Allison threw a pretty ball and Alec made a great catch and held onto it when he hit the ground. It was a great start.”
West Virginia will go into the fall with 79 or 80 scholarship players, according to Brown. He is allowed 85. With transfers Dana Holgorsen used to play a year or two gone, Brown’s allowable 25 scholarships from this year did not fill out the open roster spots.
Stills getting better
There were moments a year ago when we all saw Dante Stills break across the line of scrimmage to dump a ball carrier for a loss when we forgot we were watching a freshman at work, a young player who would get better.
Well, he has.
“I’ve gotten a lot stronger,” the former 4-star prospect out of Fairmont Senior said. “I work out now with older guys like Colton McKivitz, Reece [Donahue], [Josh] Sills, my brother [Darius]. They push me every day, especially Reece. He knows I’m next in line and he’s kind of like my mentor.”
With a year under his belt, Stills is now beginning to display his own leadership qualities.
“Last year I looked up to Reece, my brother, Kenny Bigelow,” he said. “Now I can be a leader to young guys and bring them along.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.