This Saturday at 5:00 p.m., the West Virginia Mountaineers host the Long Island University Sharks in Morgantown. After last weekend’s loss, from which we drew several takeaways, the game should provide a good tune-up and depth-building opportunity for WVU. The Mountaineers are 21-0 against FCS competition. We certainly do not expect this to be the team’s first lost against this level of talent. That said, here’s what should happen against LIU.
What Should Happen Against LIU?
Garrett Greene Should See Reps
Head Coach Neal Brown continues to express faith in Jarret Doege. It is his team, and his decision. As a result, Doege will likely start the game. But he definitely should not finish it. Here’s why.
LIU is in its third year at the FCS level. In 2019, they went winless. Last year, they went 2-2 in a shortened Spring season. Last week, LIU lost 48-10 to FIU, a team that finished 0-5 last season. Simply, LIU is still building its program. This is not a premier FCS program, and WVU should make quick work of the Sharks.
As a result, Brown should use the first part of the game as a tune-up for his starters. Then, he should yield to depth. If he waits too long to give Garrett Greene reps in-game, however, the lead should be so substantial, that those reps would involve hand-offs and very little development of in-game managements.
After last week, we heard all manners of debates about the loss to Maryland. “Greene isn’t ready,” many have said. The fact is, though, that next season the Mountaineers will have three quarterbacks competing for their first meaningful Division I snaps unless we get someone ready this year. This game should be the perfect opportunity for that. We hope to see Greene put in various situations relatively early in the game to see just how well he can do (against mediocre talent).
Establish Depth In The Running Game
Simply, Leddie Brown cannot continue to shoulder 98% of the team’s running back snaps and hope to navigate the season with fresh legs (and without injury). Coach Brown remains optimistic that Tony Mathis will suit up against LIU. That should help, as Mathis earned a clear number-two spot on the depth chart. We hope to see Mathis rotate early and often to develop a flow in the offense.
Similar to the quarterback situation, though, we should also see the Mountaineers cruise to an early lead. If they do, then we need to see heavy doses of A’varius Sparrow and Justin Johnson. Sparrow, as many fans know, was a late addition to the Class of 2020 having made the switch to running back late in high school. The staff made adding Sparrow a priority late in their class. He possessed tons of untapped potential according to the scouting reports. We have yet to see that on the field. Unless Brown has good reason to hold him out, he has nothing to lose by giving him snaps this Saturday.
Finally, Justin Johnson was a highly-touted running back out of high school, earning a four-star rating. When he signed with the Mountaineers, we wrote that Johnson “looks the part of a versatile speedy back with plus receiving skills [who is] not afraid to lower his shoulder and explode through contact.” As true freshman generally do, Johnson probably needs work on his command of the playbook and on his blocking. That said, LIU presents a solid opportunity to see what Johnson can do on the Division I level.
Rotate, Rotate, Rotate
After the Maryland loss, Brown told media that he knows they need to establish more depth and better rotation in the secondary. The snap count supports that. Three cornerbacks played in the game, and the two starters gobbled up 81% of the snaps. At safety, the starters played all but one snap, with Scottie Young surrendering a single play to Charles Woods.
LIU presents the perfect time for the staff to get its other members of the secondary some playing time. Considering all three starting safeties graduate after the season, this is particularly pressing at safety.
Before the season, Brown and Offensive Line Coach Matt Moore observed that they still needed to develop depth on the offensive line. The snap count also bore this out, as only six players saw action against Maryland (the starters plus Wyatt Milum). With 12 total bodies in the room (excluding walk-ons), we should see several more rotate against LIU.
Regardless exactly how they get there, what should happen against LIU, above all else, is a big win. The Mountaineers should be able to play a rather vanilla game and jump out to a fast start against this opponent. Getting that win in front of the Mountaineer faithful at Milan Puskar should give the team some real momentum before renewing its rivalry against a Virginia Tech team that looked much better than expected in Week One.