Camp Thoughts and Observations 8/9

On Thursday, reporters got their first chance to watch West Virginia's football team go "live" in an area of special teams that is receiving considerable attention from the Mountaineers' coaches this preseason.

Kickoff and kickoff return schemes have become an area of particular emphasis with respected special teams coach Joe DeForest on board this season, and WVU went to live action for a few repetitions early in Thursday's drills at Milan Puskar Stadium.

Four return men worked during the special teams period: Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Travares Copeland and Jordan Thompson. Fundamentals in both coverage and blocking schemes have been repeatedly stressed, with each seeing minor tweaks from past years as DeForest teaches the special teams phases according to his methods.

  • During the 30 minutes reporters were permitted to watch, West Virginia again ratcheted up the physicality of practice with the Oklahoma drill. BlueGoldNews.com has video from the drill.

    Among observations from the drill itself: as the videos show, the wide receivers and defensive backs may be the most emotionally involved in the drill.

    A brief scuffle broke out at one point after receiver Dante Campbell flattened an opponent and the white-clad offensive players spilled out onto the field to taunt their teammates on the opposite side. That play may have been exceptional in that it caused a skirmish, but the receivers and DBs seem to truly relish every chance to go one-on-one with each other.

    When offensive and defensive linemen went against each other during the drill, the blockers seemed to repeatedly get the better of their opponents. Whether that bodes well for offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh or is a sign of weakness along the defensive front remains to be seen.

  • Two defensive starters were held out of action due to injury Thursday. Linebacker Jewone Snow continued to don a red jersey due to what head trainer Dave Kerns termed "lower back tightness." He is officially considered day-to-day.

    "He'll be OK," Kerns said.

    Joining Snow on the sidelines was cornerback Brodrick Jenkins, who was also in red and pedaling a stationary bike. Kerns said Jenkins was dealing with a "lower extremity issue" and is also considered day-to-day.

  • Field goal kicking was "live" on Thursday, and Tyler Bitancurt, Corey Smith and Josh Lambert took turns kicking against a block unit. Bitancurt made kicks from 29 and 37 yards out. He did narrowly miss a 42-yard attempt wide to the right.

    Smith made both of his two tries, from 33 and 42 yards away. The 42-yarder, however, was low and nearly blocked, and defensive line coach Erik Slaughter praised the block unit for a strong effort. Lambert made a chip shot try and narrowly missed a 37-yard kick, skimming the right upright.

    Unlike season, though, field goal protection on the whole has been considerably better. A rash of blocks characterized preseason work a year ago.

  • While Shannon Dawson displayed his displeasure with Ivan McCartney in recent interviews, McCartney is participating in practice.

    Exactly how many reps he is taking with the first-team offense is unclear, as those portions of practice are closed to the media. But McCartney was again on the field and suited up to work Thursday. He was taking part in drills with special teams units last week as well.


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