MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Two months have come off the calendar since the WVU football program concluded their brief spring practice window. Prior to the pandemic, the Mountaineers were only able to take the practice field twice.
In the new reality of virtual meetings, head coach Neal Brown is constantly getting the pulse of his team and hoping to avoid monotony setting in.
“There is definitely some Zoom fatigue,” Brown said. “Myself, like a lot of head coaches in all sports, you fight the battle of what is enough and what is too much. Right now, we have eight hours (per week) we can meet with them about football. Well there is no way we can hold their attention for eight hours about football. We’re not even going to try.
“But we are trying to Monday through Friday have some contact with them so we are understanding what their health and wellness is.”
The traditional year-round college football calendar is similar for teams nationwide. Winter workouts are followed by spring practices. After final exams, players return for summer conditioning and preseason training camp is not too far behind. Coaches and players are now dealing with the strange prospect of not having any concrete dates on the calendar when they know they can return to in-person instruction.
“You finish the semester and they are used to having some downtime. But they always know the Tuesday after Memorial Day, they have to be back. And there’s no real clear dates about when we are going to be back. What is the return to play? Will we play September 5th? We all are looking for some direction.
“My feeling throughout the whole pandemic is the longer you wait to make a decision, the more information you are going to have. Right now in the college football world, the May 31st date is the end all to the guidelines that are in place. I think the powers that be are going to wait as close to that date as they possibly can to give us some direction to move forward.”
Brown says that new guidance from the NCAA allows for graduating high school seniors to join virtual team meetings as soon as their studies are completed.
“We got some relief from the NCAA within the last couple days. If guys have a proof of graduation, then they can start joining our team meetings and position meetings.
“I think the guys may be further ahead from a mental standpoint because we are going to be able to spend more time teaching those guys. And they are going to be in more meetings than they normally would leading into a season. Mentally they will be more prepared. Physically they are going to miss.”
Brown says the team remains hopeful to sign one or more graduate transfers for the 2020 season. Traditionally, Brown has advised against players signing without visiting campus. But that luxury has been taken away this offseason.
“Up until this point, we have tried to hold the line that if you haven’t been on campus, it is not in your best interest to commit because you really don’t know yet. The longer this goes, we may have to change our thinking.
“The graduate transfers are not going to have that choice. They are going to make decisions based on conversations and virtual meetings. But they are not going to be on an official visit. That is definitely a negative byproduct of this.”
When players are eventually allowed to return to Morgantown, Brown anticipates team members to have a wide variety of physical readiness.
“We are going to have guys that have gone above and beyond and trained just like they were here. We’ll have guys that have just done okay. And then we are going to have guys that have done little to nothing.
“We are going to have to monitor our guys.”