It’s game week in Morgantown, and fans have finally gotten the news they’ve awaited for months: JT Daniels will start for the Mountaineers at Acrisure Stadium.
While that tidbit understandably dominates the Monday headlines, Neal Brown had much, much more to say during his 20-minute press conference. Here are some of the biggest updates from the head football coach:
“We’ll need to be ready. We will be ready.”
Brown has harped all 2022 on the pain of last season’s week one loss to Maryland. Obviously, he is doing everything in his power to make sure this year’s opener has a different outcome.
Pitt presents a much different challenge than Maryland did in 2021. Simply put, the Panthers rank 17th in the nation as they look to defend their ACC title and, according to ESPN Gameday’s Desmond Howard, make a push for the College Football Playoff.
There is quite a bit of emotion surrounding this game on both sides.
“[WVU’s players] won’t need a whole lot of speeches,” Brown said. “They’ll be ready to go.”
Brown made the distinction, though, that he wants his team to play with emotion, rather than playing emotionally. Luckily, he has plenty of players with experience on whom he can lean to make sure his players remain even keel.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys that have played football. Not all of them have played necessarily at WVU….You look at across the board, like we’ve got guys outside of a couple guys on defense that have played,” Brown said. “Your expectation as a coach is that if guys have played, they’re going to have a maturity level to understand — to not get too high going into a contest.”
WVU is (mostly) full go
Taking on Pitt will be a lot easier since Brown said his team will be fully available for Saturday, with a few exceptions.
West Virginia’s team is in place for game day as the coach laid out his week one depth chart. Every player on that list will suit up at Acrisure Stadium, but Brown did note there are some “questionable” players ahead of the game, but he did not give names.
“The guys that are on this sheet are going to line up and play,” Brown said. “Nothing of major concern, or from a season standpoint.”
This includes tight end Mike O’Laughlin, who has worked his way back into the lineup while recovering from an injury this fall.
The depth chart does not necessarily denote playing time, however. Brown said that with the exception of quarterback and some specialists, he plans on utilizing a rotation.
“Those are the only position where just one guy plays, so sometimes who starts doesn’t matter as much as who finishes,” Brown said. “So we’re going to play a large number of bodies in the opener here.”
More on JT Daniels
WVU’s prized transfer “earned the right to start” on Thursday, Brown said.
The new Mountaineer signal-caller will make his WVU debut on Thursday, so there is plenty that Brown doesn’t yet know about Daniels. Luckily, he has plenty of Power Five experience (21 games to be exact), which helped set him apart in the quarterback battle this fall.
“This isn’t something that’s new for him,” Brown said. He’s played in big games, so I don’t think the atmosphere will rattle him.”
Daniels is no stranger to rivalry clashes, especially when they open a season. He started for Georgia’s season opener in 2021 when the Bulldogs played Clemson, one of their oldest rivals, and led them to a narrow 10-3 victory in North Carolina — one of his several appearances in rivalry matchups.
Brown was high on Daniels’s throwing talent, especially his accuracy and his deep ball (the latter of which was echoed throughout Monday’s press conferences by teammates and coaches.). On top of that, Brown lauded Daniels’s demeanor and maturity.
“He’s really even keel. He doesn’t get too high or too low, not rattled easily,” Brown said. “One series of plays, he had a turnover early on in one scrimmage, then recovered and played really good football. He didn’t let one bit of bad luck really influence how he went about the next play.”