In a usual offseason, the new college football season would be less than a week from starting as August winds down. This year is a different reality with the COVID-19 pandemic still having a major impact on daily life throughout the world.
Things have started to take shape as far as how a season is going to look for football in the major conferences, with the Big 10 and Pac 12 already deciding to postpone their seasons and try again in the spring. That leaves the Big 12, SEC and ACC as the only Power 5 conferences to revise their football schedules and look to play on.
West Virginia head coach Neal Brown has been working diligently with his staff and medical professionals to make sure his team is playing in the safest environment possible.
“Last 150-plus COVID tests we did this week have all been negative, so I’m fired up about that,” Brown said on Saturday. “I think that says that our processes are working.”
He does realize that this is not a time to celebrate, as the next few weekends are going to be critical in the fate of football all across the country. For the time being, Brown hopes his team can continue to work to build a personality to play with on the field.
“What I hope our team is going to be is a team that plays with a chip on their shoulder and really has something to prove,” Brown said about the mentality he expects from his team. “I hope our team is really hungry.”
A player that has started to show glimpses of life during workouts and early in practice is sophomore wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton.
“I think it’s just growth by him,” Brown said of Ford-Wheaton. “He has made plays and you can see him before your eyes, gaining some confidence. I’m not totally surprised. I knew he was going to be a really good player here, I just didn’t know exactly when it was going to happen."
Brown wants to make it clear that he has not shown anything until he produces between the lines when the clock is ticking.
“He’s got to go out and do it on Saturdays in games,” Brown said.
One thing that is certain for this football season is the lack of fans for each game. Some schools have announced a percentage of attendance will be allowed, but none have reached close to a full stadium. WVU has already announced that the first game of the season at Milan Puskar Stadium against Eastern Kentucky will have no spectators in attendance.
“I’m probably more disappointed for our fans than our players,” Brown said. “I really feel for the fans because they really look forward to it and we have one of the best fanbases in the entire country.”
If things can go according to plan, there is still a possibility that fans will be allowed back to Mountaineer Field at some point this season, and Brown is hoping that it can happen sooner rather than later.
“I’m hopeful that by our second game when we play Baylor here, I’m hoping we can get fans,” Brown said. “I don’t have any inside knowledge saying we will, but I’m hopeful.”