Spring Practice Report 3/15

Hard work and communication by the West Virginia football team and its coaches was evident, as the third day of spring practice was held Thursday at Milan Puskar Stadium.

Positional drills were once again at the forefront of the 30 minutes allowed for the media to see, but first, the entire team lined up in groups of seven or eight players deep. The players did lunges and other stretching drills as they worked across to the other side of the field, listening to the whistle of new defensive coordinator Joe DeForest.

Several players were very enthusiastic at this time, bobbing their heads and singing to the loud music coming from the speakers above the stadium.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen stood on the sideline and overlooked these exercises, while several other coaches positioned themselves in the middle of the field, directing the players to start and stop.

After a loud whistle blew, the players broke up into individual groups.

Running backs coach Robert Gillespie instructed the punt team in one drill. Three blockers lined up and the long-snapper hiked the ball to the punter, who kicked the ball up-field toward a returner who caught each ball.

On the other side of the field, special teams coordinator Steve Dunlap directed blocking drills, pulling players by their jerseys and telling them the proper gap to run to when getting off the block. Footwork was a big part of this drill. Dunlap didn't hesitate to make sure each player was standing in the right spot and moving in the right direction.

The blocking drills finished and Holgorsen blew the whistle, as the team hustled into a larger punt drill, with about the number of players you would see on the field in a game situation.

Holgorsen stood close by for this one, along with Gillespie, Dunlap and others.

Behind the endzone, quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital and his players, Geno Smith, Paul Millard and Ford Childress, worked on more throwing drills with a net with three targets about 20 feet away. The quarterbacks were pitched the ball, got into their stance and released the ball into the net.

Once again, the team broke back into more group drills. Smith handed the ball off to a running back. Two blockers (one OL, one DL) blocked up field, the running back ran about three yards. There were about five different groups of players on the field for this drill. When one drill was finished, the rest of the groups looked on to the next one.

"Release the ball," DeForest yelled to one group. "Move your feet!"

The defensive players were working on stripping the ball from the running backs as well as making sure they finished each tackle all the way through.

The ball was fumbled in each group a few times and all the players and coaches screamed "ball" to let the players know it was on the ground and fair game.

Holgorsen was close by throughout these drills, watching intently and talking to the other coaches when he saw something.

It is clear these practices are very intense and coaches want the players to pay strict attention to detail, but they are also rewarded and applauded when a correct play is made.

Several defensive players were told to keep their shoulders level and focus on getting good leverage and balance when running and changing direction.

Erik Slaughter was in the opposite end zone of the quarterbacks, coaching defensive linemen through blocking drills.

The linemen were in their three-point stances and when Slaughter yelled to give them the signal, the players got off the blocks, acting like they were trying to get to a quarterback.

"Where's your power coming from?" Slaughter asked. "Where your eyes are," he answered.

He was teaching the linemen to keep their eyes on the target downfield so their legs were forced to go hard in the direction they need to go.

As the media was asked to leave, the quarterbacks were throwing balls to wide receivers running small slant and curl routes.

Redshirt senior defensive back Lawrence Smith, a walk-on, was in a red jersey and was slowly jogging around the field as drills were going on. His injury was not known, but he didn't appear to be in a large amount of pain as he ran by.

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