Spring helps season West Virginia high school kids
West Virginia needed on-field experience in the defensive secondary.
Only Charles Woods, who has played 357 snaps, saw significant action a season ago on the current roster. It’s an important element at cornerback, but considering the rest of the unit last spring, it was essential for their overall development across the board.
The graduation and transfer portal played a role in the loss of players such as Alonzo Addae, Sean Mahone, Daryl Porter, Jackie Matthews and Scottie Young. That’s a total of 3,354 shots combined.
While some of the new players saw action in other places a year ago, like Marcis Floyd as a starting cornerback at Murray State, only Woods is returning who has actually made it to Morgantown.
The only other returning roster player who even played 100 snaps was Saint McLeod and he barely crossed that threshold. He also missed the whole spring after being stabbed although he is recovering and should return to the team in the future according to head coach Neal Brown.
“He trains, told me he raced,” he said. “Wounds are healing and seem to be getting better.”
High school as a whole made progress and the group began to settle in late spring and became more cohesive across the board.
“These guys, you see them improving,” Brown said. “I was satisfied with their communication.”
Floyd at cat safety with young players such as Davis Mallinger at spear, Aubrey Burks at free safety and Andrew Wilson-Lamp at the other corner made for a very athletic and interesting secondary.
When you throw other people into the mix, such as safety Hershey McLaurin and Caleb Coleman, the post groups have undergone a physical transformation over the past two months compared to their predecessors.
“I’m really excited about them because they’re long, really athletic, they can run and they can’t wait to run,” safety coach Dontae Wright said. “I have faith in them to be able to run with anyone we have to face. Being able to be physical and tackle in open space and do all these good things. They’re an exciting group.”
It was by design because while you can’t replace experience, you can become more athletic. The climbers wanted to do just that with what they brought to the program.
“We are really athletic, we can run. I said it and it was a point of attention. We wanted to be more athletic and we simplified some things to make it easier for them,” Brown said.
But still, there is a lack of experience with the rest of the unit, the snap counts from last year being Burks (32), Mallinger (21), Wilson-Lamp (19), Coleman (5) and Malachi Ruffin with 29 total snaps.
It’s the age-old question of experience or talent and for Wright it’s hard to answer, but he likes the mental composition of his position group.
“Talent just reacts to everything. I like guys who want to be great and have the ability to go out there and do what I ask them to do. It’s been really good. They take the coaching and they come out and fix that,” he said.
Each of the secondary members can insert into multiple places in the backend and this was also something the coaching staff wanted to unlock. By making the secondary more versatile, Mountaineers have the ability to do more things with the same personnel in the field.
The overall increase in athleticism helps in other areas too, as Mallinger, a former high school track star, has spearheaded and is giving mountaineers some serious speed there.
The leadership element that was developed this spring was also essential, as the more experienced options have mutual respect with the younger players. This allows for better communication and working in tandem between the different positions.
“They all start feeding off each other,” coordinator Jordan Lesley said.
There is a quiet confidence in the secondary and this spring has helped cultivate that even further.