Five position battles to watch during WVU football spring practices

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Spring pratice is not about the depth chart to Neal Brown. Based on his comments last week, we may not even see one until Big 12 media days.

“There’s competition at every position this spring,” Brown said. “We don’t have a depth chart. At every spot from the guys that made all-league, we’re going to compete. We are going to earn reps.”

That said, some competitions are more interesting than others. And here are five positions in particular that bear close watching at West Virginia this spring. The Mountaineers open their spring schedule Tuesday, and close out in the spring game on April 18.


Unless there’s a proven veteran behind center, quarterback will always appear on these lists. That’s just the way it is.

After his solid finish to last season, it’s little mystery that this appears to be Jarret Doege’s job to lose. But it should be remembered that Austin Kendall was never fully healthy last season, with a stitched and bandaged throwing hand not exactly conducive to throwing the football. Will a healed hand improve his touch and confidence, making this a legitimate competition in fall camp?

We should know by the end of April.

With Trey Lowe and Jack Allison now departed, developing depth at this position may be even more crucial than naming the right starter. Early enrollee Garrett Greene will learn the ropes this spring, as will Matt Cavallaro, a preferred walk-on from Lackawanna Junior College.

West Virginia Mountaineers cornerback Nicktroy Fortune (11) lines up against James Madison.


Keith Washington and Hakeem Bailey quietly put together very solid senior seasons for the Mountaineers, and now both must be replaced.

Nicktroy Fortune, who worked his way up to the third corner spot last year, is obviously a favorite to start. Fellow Georgian Tae Mayo will see plenty of reps this spring, and the Mountaineers also have the services of yet another Georgian, Dreshun Miller, who missed all of last season with an injury.

Alonzo Addae, a senior transfer from New Hampshire, is arguably the most experienced player in the mix and received rave reviews as a scout-team player last year. Juco transfer Jackie Matthews and early enrollee Jairo Faverus are two other names to keep an eye on.

Regardless who who ends up starting, WVU looks like it may develop enough depth to avoid leaning on only three corners all season.

West Virginia Mountaineers running back Leddie Brown (4) during a 2019 spring practice.

Running back

Will the Mountaineers have a player to hang their hat on at running back after a couple years of a committee approach?

Brown is high on junior Leddie Brown and redshirt freshman Tony Mathis, both of whom possess the ability to run through people rather than around them — an approach that may continue to be necessary behind a still-patchwork offensive line.

Neal Brown also indicated Alec Sinkfield will return to the backfield full-time after experimenting at times in the slot last season.

West Virginia Mountaineers offensive lineman Mike Brown (57).

Offensive line

With center Chase Berhndt expected to miss contact drills this spring, there are more questions than answers surrounding the entire offensive line this spring.

The Mountaineers must replace starting tackles Colton McKivitz and Kelby Wickline, who rarely came off the field last season. Josh Sills, who would have been the unit’s leader, instead transferred to Oklahoma State.

Not only does line coach Matt Moore need to find a starting five, but he needs to find guys who can get on the field when needed — an area in which the Mountaineers were sorely lacking last season due to a host of freshmen on the second unit.


Who doesn’t love a good punting battle? For the brand, as former Mountaineer Pat McAfee always says.

Brown was able to, well, punt on using an inexperienced punter last season when senior graduate transfer Josh Growden parachuted in from LSU late in the summer.

This spring, we will learn if West Virginia has that player on the roster or if another trip into the transfer portal is necessary.

Evan Staley, Kolton McGhee, Evan Matthes and Leighton Bechdel are all names on the prospective Mountaineer punter list.

And if this season’s offense is anything like last year’s, this position will be far more important than you want it to be.

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