Fall Practice Report: Day 6

Mountaineer offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh seemed alternately pleased and frustrated during the first few periods of Thursday's practice. His charges seem to be grasping the offense's concepts and their blocking calls, but certain physical fundamentals are still lacking.

Bedenbaugh, like essentially every other WVU assistant, spends considerable time in the early stages of practice with just his players, going through drills designed to reinforce those fundamentals.

But there were few reps that went by early (particularly among those further down the depth chart) that saw the former Arizona line boss express any sort of satisfaction with the work being done.

"Press, press, press, press," he reminded players in the middle of one rep.

"More width and depth, more width and depth," he said during the next one.

"Bend your damn knees when you get there," was the cry after another.

"Lift with your hands -- get up and under," came not longer after.

The latter point, about proper hand placement and leverage, may have been the most frequently-reinforced message. Players are being taught to make their initial attack right into the vertical edges of the opponent's chest plate, allowing them to even grab a slight hold of that piece of equipment without much risk of drawing a penalty flag for holding.

Much of the early work was more mental than some may expect, as players showed their knowledge of their assignments within various blocking calls in several drills. Bedenbaugh asked a few of his players to rotate in and out as a faux defense, telling each player how to "attack" the offensive line.

A blocking call was then relayed to the others, and a play was simulated. The blockers were asked to react to what the "defense" did -- while staying within the parameters of the given call.

There were few miscues here, and Bedenbaugh again saw fit to mostly correct technique issues. On calls where the guard is asked to pull, the line coach reminded those guards to take their first step straight back and to avoid turning their shoulders or crossing their feet, lest they not be squared up well enough to block quickly, if need be.

As the guards pulled, some took too wide an angle. Bedenbaugh quickly reminded them to keep the pull shallow, lest an opponent get across the lineman's face and into the backfield.

The mental work largely goes out the window for at least a couple of periods. Bedenbaugh pits his linemen against each other one-on-one, with one player acting as a defensive lineman. This is when things get physical, the pads truly start popping and technique issues are put in full view.

At one point, a graduate assistant working with the unit reminded freshman Marquis Lucas to "roll his hips through" after his initial attack. Lucas was asked to go again, and fared little better. The graduate assistant then asked Lucas if he knew what that phrase meant, and Lucas sheepishly admitted he did not.

The young lineman was then taught how it compares to the way a weightlifter executes a power clean, rotating through the hips to generate power from the ground and drive upwards. Despite some jokes from his teammates, who got on his case for not understanding the term, Lucas quickly went back to work and showed he had grasped the concept.

Between Bedenbaugh, the graduate assistant and the injured Josh Jenkins, the offensive linemen have three sets of eyes watching their every move and offering corrections. Jenkins chided one of his teammates after a rep, saying, "No hips. No hips."

The West Virginia starters are also helping to reinforce the basics to newcomers. After one rep in which he acted as a defensive lineman, Jeff Braun showed his opponent, Russell Haughton-James, that his hand placement was poor.

"Where are your hands?" Braun asked rhetorically just after Bedenbaugh called for the two to break contact. "They're up high, right around my face mask." Braun then reached to his side and feigned throwing a penalty flag before reminding Haughton-James about the need to stay inside, close to the chestplate.

Other fundamental drills ended the open period of practice, including one that saw players take turns attacking a "sled" as though it was a defensive lineman, then quickly shedding the faux opponent in a certain direction to head upfield and block a teammate, acting as a linebacker.

Like most of the drills, Bedenbaugh seemed pleased with the mental side of things. Time and time again, he would approvingly yell out the word "good" repeatedly in the early portions of reps, only to find a flaw to correct once blockers actually got to the point of attack.

RIFLE REPORTS:

  • WVU finally has a third quarterback to spell the surely-tired arms of Geno Smith and Paul Millard.

    Former walk-on Ian Loy returned to the practice field and, while he did not throw any passes Thursday, he is expected to provide a bit of relief for what has been a difficult situation through the first week of fall camp.

    Loy, a native of Fort Ashby, W.Va. and a Frankfort High alumnus, has been in past Mountaineer camps. He attended Potomac State Junior College for one semester before transferring to West Virginia in the spring of 2009. During the 2009 season, he was listed at 6-foot-1 and 168 pounds on WVU's official roster.

  • There were a few additions to the ranks of the injured, as both linebacker Troy Gloster and defensive lineman Julian Miller were in red jerseys and pedaling stationary bicycles during practice.

    Both are dealing with "lower extremity sprains" in the parlance of WVU head trainer Dave Kerns. Both are officially day-to-day, but "Julian may be out a little longer than Troy," Kerns said.

    Also, defensive back Mike Dorsey was in green, but was participating in most of practice while dealing with an "upper extremity sprain."

  • It was another block party during special teams periods to begin practice, something that surely won't sit well with head coach Dana Holgorsen and company.

    Tyler Bitancurt had one of his attempts tipped enough to push it wide right, and while officials do not stand under the uprights for practice, it appeared at least a couple of other of the kicker's attempts were very close to being no good.

    The other kicker battling for the job, Corey Smith, fared little better. He had one of his attempts blocked as well, and appeared as though at least one other try was wide right.


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