The weather couldn't have been better during WVU's initial days in Miami, although it's going to take a downturn over the next couple of days. WVU hopes that the reverse is true for its outlook, and that a string of injuries is behind it as it heads into the final days of Orange Bowl prep.
Injuries to Dustin Garrison and Connor Arlia have clouded West Virginia's Orange Bowl run-up, but the team and coaching staff have been trying to maintain a positive outlook as the game draws near. Head coach Dana Holgorsen and running backs coach Robert Gillespie both pointed out the necessity of staying ready, with Gillespie noting that Garrison's injury is a practical lesson in preparing as if you are going to play, no matter how far down the depth chart.
Garrison's absence won't change much in WVU's plan of attack, although Gillespie does allow that the freshman has some talents that exceed those of the other backs on the roster.
More notes from Sunday:
WVU again ran through every special team, working on a variety of different situations. Kick returns were full speed all the way to the end, although tackling was again not done. Field goals were full go from a variety of distances.
Quarterbacks worked on timing rights and deep balls, and used a target net as they attempted to "drop the ball in the bucket" over what would be a receiver's outside shoulder. Geno Smith hit a noticeable hot streak, dropping seven in a row into the target from a full 30 yards away.
The offensive and defensive lines trekked to the far end of the second soccer field at Barry University for some one-on-ones. Backups Curtis Feigt and Quinton Spain again got a number of reps, but expect Tyler Rader and Pat Eger in starting roles.
Shawne Alston is expected to start at running back in place of Garrison. He was not available for interviews today, but will be with the offensive group for media sessions tomorrow at the media hotel.
Former Mountaineers Khori Ivy and Damon Cogdell were among those in attendance at practice as well as Najee Goode's family. Goode's father is one of the most gracious parents we've had the pleasure to meet.
The tenor on the practice field continues to be a bit less strict than that of previous years. That's not to suggest things are lax, but rather just an indication of Holgorsen's approach.
"The players' focus has been good, and they have been working hard," he said. "We are down here to win a football game, and I think our mix of preparation and fun has been good."
Tavon Austin had the catch of the day with a one-handed sweep of a pass in the end zone.
Defensive skeleton work included a great deal of practice on pass coverages, which is to be expected with Terence Garvin out. Other than a couple of true freshmen, just about every DB remaining on the roster saw significant reps during the early periods.
WVU will have its final full practice on Monday and a walk-through on Tuesday.