Fall Practice Report: Day 8

Jake Spavital may have only had two quarterbacks at his disposal during the first days of preseason camp, but that did not mean the West Virginia football team's newest position coach was ready to take it easy on either one of them.

NOTE: This report is the result of observation over the course of several days, and is not confined to Saturday's practice alone. Indeed, because of limitations imposed by WVU officials, the sort of observational reporting that has characterized other practice reports during this fall camp was impossible.

Indeed, if anything, the fact that Geno Smith and Paul Millard were the only signal-callers in camp for essentially the entire first week (Saturday saw new third-stringer Ian Loy finally able to wear a "shell" in practice per NCAA acclimatization rules) made for a level of competition that might not have existed otherwise.

Even simple drills aimed at showing accuracy turned into duels between the two quarterbacks. On one day earlier this week, Smith and Millard were working through an exercise in which Spavital asked them to chop their feet while turned away from the target.

Upon hearing a verbal command, each would turn and fire into a net that had two small holes in it (no more than two square feet each). This tested their ability to turn, identify the target, set their feet and throw accurately -- all while keeping the "operation time" from the verbal command to the throw as small as possible.

Smith and Millard were apparently more than worthy opponents for each other. The competition came down to a final throw for Millard, who calmly delivered his throw into one of the "goals" to win. As a "punishment" for losing, Smith had to pick up a series of cones and set them up for the quarterbacks' next drill.

The actual work the quarterbacks do is not wildly different from that of past years. The drills are relatively similar, the same points are emphasized. They throw a bit of soft toss in the early minutes of practice before working on timing routes with receivers during one period.

A variety of routes are called during those critical few minutes: slants, flags and many others. Some balls are thrown with considerable force; others are rainbows that are designed to drop just over the receiver's shoulder and into his waiting arms.

It is that variety that Spavital and West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen will hope prepares Smith (and possibly Millard) for the different throws they will have to make on the field this fall.

RIFLE REPORTS:

  • For the second day in a row, Tyler Bitancurt looked strong in the field goal period that began practice. He was perfect during his round of reps (even making one kick when he lost his footing and slid to the ground), and once again received a bit of congratulations from Dana Holgorsen after drilling the last attempt.

    The same could not be said for Corey Smith, who had one of his tries tipped just enough by Avery Williams to send the ball fluttering wide to the left and no goon.

  • There was one new addition to the special teams period that reporters saw for the first time Saturday. Instead of following field goals with punt work, players were run through a drill designed to improve kickoff coverage.

    In it, sets of players were sent out as cover men at a verbal command from an assistant coach (either Steve Dunlap or David Lockwood). Other players stood in as blockers for the return unit (though they did not run and attack the coverage unit).

    The coverage men were to attempt to shed the first wave of blockers and then attack the second level of them. They pushed those blockers backwards, then collapsed around the return man without tackling him.

    Both Dunlap and Lockwood seemed relatively satisfied with the way the drill played out.

  • For the first time in several days, there were no additions to the ranks of the red-wearers at practice.

    The same cast of characters that had been limited in past days was again donning Christmas colors, though some traded red (held out entirely) for green (limited participation). Among those in green were Darwin Cook, Mike Dorsey, Troy Gloster and J.B. Lageman.

  • The Mountaineer coaching staff had referees at Saturday's practice, but they had not yet been used for any purpose after the first half-hour of work had concluded.

    This perhaps should come as little surprise, as no "live" work was done during that half-hour. Indeed, Saturday's practice was the last time reporters will see WVU work out before the Sept. 4 season-opener against Marshall -- and media members did not see a single snap of "live" action throughout the entirety of camp.


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