Neal Brown addressing many challenges as the preseason nears

(Complete Neal Brown Zoom conference)


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A day after defensive coordinator Vic Koenning was placed an administrative leave following allegations of mistreatment towards sophomore safety Kerry Martin, head coach Neal Brown echoed his comments that he released in a statement late Tuesday evening.

“Yesterday was a tough day,” Brown said. “I am sick about it. I care deeply about everyone involved. I care deeply about everyone in our program. We have and will continue to build a culture that is relationship driven. We have to respect the university’s process.

“We have an open policy. You continue to learn and you continue to get feedback. If that is an area that we need to grow, then we need to grow. But I feel confident in being able to talk. Our guys have a voice. I respect that voice and that is their right.”

Koenning released a statement on Wednesday evening:

Players have been participating in strength and conditioning workouts for just over a week since returning to Morgantown. These are voluntary workouts leading up to the start of mandatory activities on July 13.

“It is not something that I am sitting there trying to peek into a bunch. I trust our strength staff totally. I trust our athletic training staff. I know the guys that are there are getting good work. They’ll get them in a position where we will be able to see them on July 13th.”

167 players and staff members have been tested for COVID-19 this month with two players testing positive. Those two players did not begin conditioning drills. While the players’ time in and around the football facility is limited for now, Brown is focusing on educating his players about how to use best health precautions while on their own.

“We can control exactly what we do in our facilities and how we go about our protocols, precautions, procedures and how we do our testing. But we don’t have control over our student-athletes 24 hours a day, nor do I want that. We are trying to educate them on the best practices and hope that they follow through.”

West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown celebrates his first WVU win with Mountaineers wide receiver Sam James (13) after beating the James Madison Dukes at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium.

Brown says he is focusing on three dates for now. First is the start of mandatory activities on July 13 (up to eight hours per week). Next is the start of the second phase on July 24 (up to twenty hours per week). That all leads up to the official start of preseason camp on August 7. Brown acknowledges that practice and meeting formats could look significantly different than a typical year.

“This is not going to be a normal college football year in any aspect. It is not going to be normal for our players. It is not going to be normal for our staff.

“We are working through a bunch of different models, anywhere from split practices and things like that, trying to do as many virtual meetings as possible or outdoor meetings. We are going to put our players at as little risk as we possibly can.”

In addition to new practice procedures, Brown says some players could be asked to learn multiple positions in the event that depth issues arrive due to positive COVID tests or injuries.

“You have to have some guys that have the ability to crossover. It is easier to do at your skill positions. You have to have that. Next week is kind of my scenario week, where you go through all this stuff and think through all the scenarios.

“Some of the wideouts are going to have to cross-train at safety and corner. Some of the corners and safeties, we are going to have to teach them some base formations and base routes. Some of our (defensive) ends might have to learn tight end.”

On Black Lives Matter

Like over a dozen of his players, Brown attended the protest in downtown Morgantown on June 2. This was the first of several protests in and around Morgantown in recent weeks.

WVU head coach Neal Brown at the Morgantown protest.

“Racism and social injustice are major issues in our society. I support our players. I support the Black Lives Matter. I thought it was important for me. I didn’t want to be the story. But it is important for me to support our players. We want to be part of change.”

Quarterback competition beyond the field

Junior Jarret Doege and senior Austin Kendall split the starts at quarterback last fall, with Doege preserving a redshirt season by appearing in just four games. Brown has been pleased with not only that duo, but a freshman entering the mix as well.

Jarret Doege was 2-1 as a starter for WVU in 2019.

“You see our accountability teams, both of those guys, Doege’s and Kendall’s teams have both risen to the top of those standings. I think it is important to note that Garrett Greene is a part of Darius Stills’ team and he is in third position. Darius is the leader in that group but Garrett has been really active.

“We’ve got two guys I have been extremely pleased with. They are more than capable of leading our football team.”

Offseason hardware

Brown announced that five Mountaineers have earned awards traditionally handed out during the annual Gold-Blue Spring Game.

Senior safety Osman Kamara has won the Tommy Nickolich Award. It is presented annually to a walk-on player who distinguishes himself with his attitude and work ethic. Kamara has appeared in 37 games for the Mountaineers, primarily as a backup safety and a special teams contributor.

Bridgeport H.S. graduate Dante Bonamico enters his senior season at WVU.

Four players have been selected as the 2020 Iron Mountaineer Award winners. Senior safety Dante Bonamico, junior safety Noah Guzman, sophomore offensive lineman James Gmiter and sophomore receiver Bryce Wheaton share the honor, which is presented to the top performers in the offseason strength and conditioning program.

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