Spring Practice Notebook: Day 11

Offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen had plenty of reasons to be frustrated with what he watched towards the end of Wednesday morning's WVU football practice. But in the final few plays before the horn sounded twice to signify the end of drills, his counterpart, Jeff Casteel, was the one who had plenty of errors to correct.

As 11-on-11 drills started with 30 minutes remaining in practice, Holgorsen's offense clearly was intent on practicing getting lined up quickly and running several plays that got the ball out of quarterbacks' hands quickly.

That went well enough early, as Geno Smith dumped off a quick toss to running back Daquan Hargrett on one play and watched as Hargrett ran through a few half-hearted arm-tackle attempts, found a small crease towards one sideline and ran to daylight for what would have been a 70-yard touchdown.

That drew a reminder from cornerbacks coach David Lockwood, clearly frustrated with the results of the play. "Wrap up!" he yelled across the field.

Apparently, the players took that advice to heart, as the touchdown was the only early offensive highlight. The rest of those "quick-hitters" resulted in, well, quick hits from the blue-clad defensive players.

That, in turn, left offensive coaches a bit hot under the collar. A series of plays that would have been sacks if quarterbacks were permitted to be hit ensued, leaving Holgorsen and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh yelling at their players in anger.

Bedenbaugh just could not find answers, though, as players across his front five just could not maintain blocks long enough to give Smith and backup quarterback Paul Millard time to operate.

In a sign of just how poorly things went, a blocking scheme had to be called on one play to send the right guard out to help chip-block Josh Taylor -- who typically plays at nose tackle but took a few snaps at defensive end while other players got a rest. Taylor was giving offensive linemen fits, even at a position he rarely plays.

Taylor got a sack. Julian Miller had one. Bruce Irvin was in the backfield on multiple occasions. Ditto for Will Clarke. Just about everyone on defense seemed to take his turn getting a free run at the quarterbacks.

"We've been sacked eight times this period already!" Holgorsen yelled out in frustration at one point. "We're going to lead the country in sacks."

Finally, one quick screen play worked for a moderate gain, drawing a bit of sarcasm-laden praise from the offensive coordinator. "That would have worked in the red zone," he said. "If we'll ever get there."

Adding insult to injury, one play that may have had a chance at success was apparently stymied by offensive players who weren't in the game standing on the field instead of on the sidelines, blocking a ball-carrier from progressing.

That drew even more frustrated yells from Holgorsen, who, in no uncertain terms, instructed the white shirts to stay on the sideline -- something their defensive counterparts have done all spring.

  • The tide started to turn when the offense began taking red zone snaps in the final minutes before practice ended, and the star on that side of the ball was, yet again, Tyler Urban.

    The converted tight end showed why Holgorsen said in recent days that he has been the most consistent receiver on the field. He caught two more touchdown passes Wednesday, and both in highlight-reel fashion.

    The first came relatively easily, as Urban broke free across the middle and Smith found him and fired a bullet that was right on target. But the rain that again fell on Mountaineer Field during drills made it a bit tougher grab than it would have otherwise be, and Urban failed to cleanly corral the ball. To his credit, he didn't panic, maintained focus and regained control in the end zone for the score.

    The second was far more impressive, as Urban was well-covered by Terence Garvin towards the back of the end zone. Smith, perhaps showing his growing confidence in Urban, tossed it in the direction of the receiver anyway.

    Urban appeared to use one arm to keep Garvin at bay, jumped up high into the air and used the other arm to haul in a one-handed catch, then just got one foot down in the blue turf to ensure the score would count.

    The play drew appreciative "oohs" and "aahs" from players and other observers alike.

  • Eyes were also opened a bit wider after one play from Tavon Austin earlier in drills.

    The speedy receiver caught a ball between the hashes, continued running in the direction he had been running the route for a few more steps before firmly planting one foot in the turf and spinning around on it. He quickly headed towards the opposite sideline, leaving the defender who appeared to have him lined him up for a tackle hopelessly grasping at air.

  • Urban's catches appeared to light a fire in some of his offensive teammates.

    Vernard Roberts took advantage, as the young running back ran through the middle of the defense, bursting through several tackle attempts for an 8-yard score that left several defensive players (notably Irvin and cornerback Pat Miller) yelling at their teammates for failing to get Roberts to the ground.

  • For a fleeting moment, West Virginia's notoriously difficult-to-please defensive line coach, Bill Kirelawich, actually exclaimed about something that made him happy.

    On one play near the goal line, Smith took a snap, turned one way to fake out the defense before making a 180-degree turn and attempting to fire a quick pass to Ivan McCartney.

    But defensive lineman Julian Miller was not sold by Smith's initial move, stayed alert and timed a jump perfectly when Smith turned around and threw his pass. Miller initially deflected the pass and very nearly came up with an interception, though the ball appeared to hit the ground first.

    Kirelawich didn't agree, showing the rarest of emotions -- happiness -- when he exclaimed twice that Miller had come up with the pick. First, the yell was for no one in particular. Then, apparently feeling the need to share his satisfaction with someone, he sidled up to Casteel and repeated himself.

    Regardless of whether the play would have been ruled an interception or not, it was certainly a good day for Kirelawich's charges.

  • Instead of ending practice with the ball security/turnover circuit that has been done at the conclusion of every other session, Wednesday's drills ended with "NASCAR" placekicking.

    That is the drill where an offensive play is run, and just after it ends, the offense sprints off the field and the special teamers sprint on, simulating what would happen in the final seconds of a half or at the end of a game if the Mountaineers needed three points just before the buzzer.

    But instead of a clean race to the checkered flag, this "NASCAR" simulation looked more like a 25-car pile-up.

    Of the four kicks attempted -- two each from Tyler Bitancurt and Corey Smith -- only one was converted.

    Bitancurt's first attempt was blocked easily by Garvin near the line of scrimmage. Smith then came on and fared no better, pulling a 45-yard kick wide left. Bitancurt then came back out and made a 41-yard attempt from the right hash, just before Smith's second try was blocked by Qudral Forte.

  • WVU will again scrimmage on Friday, and BlueGoldNews.com will have all the details.

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