Fall Practice Report: Day 1

As West Virginia's football players warmed up and stretched on the grass practice field adjacent to the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility, the sounds of the rapper Yung Joc's "It's Goin' Down" poured out of speakers near one end zone. It was immediately clear a new era had begun.

With a whistle and a brief team huddle, the music stopped abruptly. Dana Holgorsen's first practice as the Mountaineers' head coach was underway.

Though the structure was similar to that of drills run by his predecessor, Bill Stewart (a series of five-minute "periods" making up the duration of the workout), practice had a few of Holgorsen's touches that were immediately evident.

First was the move to the grass practice field. While that may have been the result of the oppressive Morgantown heat (temperatures were just shy of 90 degrees when practice started, and the heat index made it feel warmer), it was certainly a departure from the norm, as most WVU practices are held inside Milan Puskar Stadium.

Then there was the music. It was a collection of recent hip hop and rap hits, including Waka Flocka Flame's "No Hands." While it was only played during warmups and the stretch period, the thump of the bass and the rhythm of the words lent a different vibe to the opening moments of the workout.

Another minor change saw players do their jogging and other light warmups across the width of the field (from sideline to sideline) instead of down the length of it (from end zone to end zone).

And then there was Holgorsen himself. Clad in a lightweight shirt and shorts appropriate for the weather, he strode around the middle of the field in the early moments of drills, no longer content to focus solely on the offense, as he did during WVU's spring practice period.

He watched eagerly as players worked extensively on punt protection in the first minutes of practice, including instruction for those in the three-man "shield" that is the punter's last line of defense on those plays. Holgorsen did not add anything to what his assistant coaches were saying, and he did not readily show any signs of approval or disapproval.

The 40-year-old Holgorsen did break his silence on a couple of occasions later in drills, offering tips to receivers who were working on quick slant routes. The head coach instructed several players of their need to cut directly upfield immediately after making the catch.

"You're going to run into other people," Holgorsen said to one receiver, trying to explain the reason for the correction.

RIFLE REPORTS:

  • Media members were permitted to watch the first half-hour of drills, and there was no "live" work between offense and defense in that span of time.

    After the stretching period ended, players moved into special teams work. Both first- and second-team field goal units practiced kicking without a defensive unit opposing them (the block teams worked alone on the opposite end of the field). Perhaps not surprisingly, both Tyler Bitancurt and Corey Smith looked solid as a result.

    The aforementioned punt protection period followed, while players not involved went to work in individual drills with their respective position coaches. It is worth noting that the three players who stood deep to field those punts (there were no actual returns attempted) were Tavon Austin, J.D. Woods and Wake Forest transfer Devon Brown.

    Once punt work concluded, those position-by-position drills were the destination for all players.

  • In what had to have been a pleasing bit of news to coaches on the first day of practice, there were no players in green or red jerseys on or around the field for Friday's workout.

    There was one brief scare in the opening minutes of work, as West Virginia head trainer Dave Kerns was down on one knee, tending to freshman running back Andrew Buie, who was laying down on the grass. But it became apparent Buie simply needed the tape loosened up a bit on his legs, and the youngster quickly went back to work after the appropriate adjustment was made.

  • Holgorsen is slated to hold a post-practice news conference at 7:45 p.m., just after practice concludes.

    BlueGoldNews.com will have full coverage of that question-and-answer session, including video, available on our website later Friday night.


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