Football, Sports, WVU Sports

WVU football notebook: Personal responsibility critical for players as students return to campus

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — One week ago when West Virginia opened its fall camp, coach Neal Brown made a plea about why football should be played, while conferences such as the Big Ten and Pac-12 decided to call it quits, at least until the spring.

Since, the Big 12, along with the SEC and ACC, announced it is going to keep chugging along, so the Mountaineers are now a week through camp as they gear up to face Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 12 at Milan Puskar Stadium.

“I’m excited about it, that we’re staying the course,” Brown said. “We talked about it earlier in the week before that decision came down. I really believe that we need to play as long as we can continue to do it in a safe manner. I think the collateral damage could be potentially worse if we don’t play. I really believe in the safety protocols that we’ve been going through and my hope is — and we’ve been testing — as we continue to get those negative test results back that shows we’re doing the right thing.”

WVU announced last weekend there are three active COVID-19 cases within the athletic department — two among staff members and one on an Olympic sports team. As it stands, the football program, as well as both basketball teams, have zero active cases. For football, there have been 28 total recoveries.

Keeping it there will be key for the Mountaineers, especially with other students returning to campus to begin the fall semester.

At Oklahoma, coach Lincoln Riley announced nine new positive tests following a break he gave his players to go home and do what they wanted to do. The Sooners had just one positive test the five weeks prior during football workouts.

Personal responsibility will be key not only for WVU, but other programs across the country.

“The real challenge is when more and more students return to town. We know that, we know that’s coming,” Brown said. “We have to continue to train our guys.”

Fortune on leave of absence

Sophomore cornerback Nicktroy Fortune’s mother passed away last Thursday, and Brown said Fortune can take as much time as he needs away from the team in the meantime.

“I love Nicktroy,” Brown said. “He’s probably one of the finest young men we have in the program. Our thoughts and prayers are with him. He’ll be out for as long as he needs, but hopefully everyone in Mountaineer Nation will be thinking about him and his family.”

Fortune could be in line to take over one of the starting cornerback spots with the losses of Hakeem Bailey and Keith Washington. Fortune appeared in 10 games as a true freshman in 2019, finishing with 16 tackles and two pass-breakups.

Sinkfield becoming strong standout

With Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway gone, the Mountaineers are looking to add depth at running back behind last season’s leading rusher Leddie Brown, and so far, junior Alec Sinkfield appears to be doing his part.

“He has probably handled this layoff that we had leading into the return-to-play model (better),” Brown said. “He’s put on weight. One of the things we’ve talked about with him is making (plays) in space, and I thought he had a couple dynamic runs [Saturday]. I’m excited about his progress.”

Redshirt-sophomore Tony Mathis and true freshman A’Varius Sparrow will also provide depth at running back.

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