The start of a new season opened doors for a handful of WVU football newcomers. 

At least 11 true freshmen appeared in West Virginia’s 56-10 victory over Eastern Kentucky, and many of them made an impact. 

The biggest contributors at skill positions included wide receivers Sam Brown and Reese Smith. The freshmen combined for eight receptions and 75 yards in their Mountaineer debuts, and Brown was listed as an official starter. 

“They’re guys that both had a really good camp,” starting quarterback Jarret Doege said. “Guys that came in, stepped up and are in the rotation because of it, and they’re guys that I’ll continue to go to throughout the season.”

Fairmont native Zach Frazier also started at center in his debut in old gold and blue, becoming the first true freshman to start on the offensive line for WVU in over 40 years. 

Head coach Neal Brown said he was impressed by those three players in particular. 

“Those three guys are gonna play a lot of football here for a long time, and I was pleased they got off to a good start,” Neal Brown said. 

Two more true freshmen recorded offensive stats in the season opener. Quarterback Garrett Greene completed three passes for 24 yards and rushed for 33 more yards, while tight end Charles Finley recorded his first reception. 

On defense, lineman Akheem Mesidor made the biggest splash. The native of Ontario, Canada, recorded a sack and two total tackles in his debut. 

Linebackers Lanell Carr and Taurus Simmons and safety Jairo Favors also recorded at least one tackle. 

West Virginia’s coaching staff will have more flexibility with freshmen this season due to the NCAA’s fall sport eligibility relief ruling. All fall sport athletes have been granted an extra year of eligibility an an extension of their eligibility window due to the pandemic. 

But many of these freshmen played in the opener out of necessity, as WVU announced the suspension of 11 players just an hour before kickoff. 

“They paid the price, and there’s not gonna be any double jeopardy on this,” Brown said. “This is something, and I told the team that last second ran off the clock, it’s over, and we’ll move forward with them being active participants. They’ll grow, and they’ll learn, and they’ll be better.” 

After an open week, West Virginia will begin Big 12 play next Saturday at Oklahoma State. The Big 12 announced Monday that the contest will kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET.