Spring Practice Notebook 3/13

The swagger was back at West Virginia's football practice on Tuesday, as players took to the Milan Puskar Stadium turf for the second session of spring drills to the beats of Lil Wayne and Jay-Z.

Again, reporters did not get to see any "live" action during the 30 minutes of practice that were open to media on Tuesday. Instead, positional drills were the order of the day, including special teams work that immediately followed the pre-practice stretch period.

The majority of the special teams drills were devoted to punt and kickoff coverage. Players constantly reminded of the need to stay in their coverage lanes, and coaches repeatedly emphasized the need to use their hands and arms in the "contact zone" with blockers to shed quickly shed those blocks and advance towards the return man.

It was clear again that though Steve Dunlap will carry the title of special teams coordinator, he will hardly work alone on that facet of play. Running backs coach Robert Gillespie, co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest and head coach Dana Holgorsen were all intimately involved in the work being done. Holgorsen himself blew the whistle to start each rep of kickoff coverage.

"This is your résumé," Gillespie reminded players before one rep. "Put it on tape."

  • While their teammates stretched and went through those special teams drills (other than offensive and defensive linemen, who also worked off to the side in their own small groups), quarterbacks worked on intense footwork drills.

    The first drill saw signal-callers tasked with moving around four small cones on the ground while keeping their head and eyes up and looking downfield. As their feet constantly chopped and shuffled, position coach Jake Spavital signaled which way they were to move next.

    Finally, Spavital called for the ball to be released. Quarterbacks threw to a net about 10-15 yards away with three small targets to hit.

    The net stayed in place for another footwork drill that also honed players' awareness.

    Spavital threw four bean bags (one at a time) at quarterbacks as they again shuffled their feet and looked downfield. Geno Smith, Paul Millard and Ford Childress each took turns avoiding the bean bags by ducking or stepping out of the way. Once the fourth was released, they were free to throw at the targets.

  • Timing drills were again in order for quarterbacks and receivers, though unlike Sunday's session, only one receiver ran a route at a time. Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson stood in place to act as a cornerback, and receivers ran their routes based on which way he turned to send them.

    Quarterbacks were tasked with throwing just as the receivers broke their routes, while the receivers were ordered to turn upfield as soon as they made a catch.

    Dawson barked at one receiver for not using his hands and arms aggressively enough when the assistant coach had simulated a jam near the line of scrimmage.

    He paid for that decision shortly thereafter, as another receiver then aggressively slammed his arm into Dawson's forearm, causing the coach to complain of pain and half-jokingly declare that he might need a protective sleeve for Thursday's practice.

  • At least in the portions of practice reporters have been able to see, Holgorsen himself has watched defensive drills closely. In fact, while quarterbacks and receivers worked on their timing on one side of the field, Holgorsen stood watching Erik Slaughter lead defensive line drills.

    In fact, his back was completely turned away from the offensive players, and he stood at least 90 yards away from their workouts as he watched Slaughter's group instead.

  • Speaking of Holgorsen, he had one luxury that appeared to be all for himself at practice.

    A small cooler was planted on one sideline, back near the stadium wall at about the 50-yard line. It was adorned with a BCS logo on the top and the logos of Big East Conference schools on the side.

    As reporters prepared to head out of the stadium once the 30 minutes of open practice expired, Holgorsen opened the lid. He pulled out a cold Red Bull energy drink and popped the top -- perhaps a sign that the real work was only just beginning.

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