Camp Thoughts and Observations 8/16

For the last time in preseason camp, West Virginia opened its practice to reporters Thursday. And while there were plenty of reporters -- and even a few NFL scouts -- in attendance, one noteworthy Mountaineer was not.

You could see Geno Smith on the cover of Sports Illustrated's college football preview issue this week, but those at WVU's practice Thursday did not see the star signal-caller.

Assistant athletic director for communications Michael Fragale said coach Dana Holgorsen indicated reporters could ask about Smith's absence when Holgorsen holds his press conference later Thursday evening.

Immediate indications were that Smith's absence was nothing to be concerned with, as at least one staffer downplayed its significance while the team was still on the field.

  • In terms of those who were on the field for practice, West Virginia worked on all three kickoff types during special teams drills near the beginning of practice. Full kickoffs, squib kicks and onside tries all received work.

    Onside kicks will be particularly different this year, as new rules that allow a team to call for a fair catch after a kick hits the ground and pops up into the air will likely change the tactics. Special teams coordinator Steve Dunlap noted earlier this week that subterfuge and dribbled kicks will be the best way to recover onside kicks with the new rules.

  • Though it has mostly been sunshine and rainbows at Camp Mountaineer this fall (as coaches have professed to be quite pleased with the work their players have done), there was finally a bit of frustration on the part of a few staffers.

    Quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital, offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and receivers coach/offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson all were upset about sloppy work that occurred when the team broke down into small group instruction.

  • Our daily videos from camp highlight some of the fundamental work being done on the defensive side of the ball. In the first, co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson works with linebackers on how to recognize an angle to attack when working against pass blockers and making a quick move around them. Note one player's fundamentals were fine in his run through, but that Patterson quickly adds, "Man, that was slow."

    In the second video, cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts instructs players on how to close in and defend short screen passes, emphasizing proper angle of attack, sifting through potential blockers, closing under control (not losing balance before making contact) and then wrapping up to finish the play.

  • The ranks of those limited or held out of practice due to injury again grew for Thursday's workout. Matt Moro and Avery Williams continued to don red jerseys, and they were joined once again by Jewone Snow.

    Snow had moved out of red and into a green shirt (signaling limited ability to participate) when reporters last got to watch practice on Monday, but he was back in red and pedaling a stationary bike with several of his teammates as practice began Thursday.

    Several prominent names were among those in green jerseys, including receiver Ivan McCartney and cornerback Pat Miller.

  • Call it the jinx -- for a second straight open practice session since we wrote in this space about the lack of blocked field goals during drills, Tyler Bitancurt had one kick rejected during the special teams period that begins practice.

    This time, it was Terence Garvin who got into the backfield and denied Bitancurt's final try.

  • Scouts from at least three NFL teams -- the Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans -- were in attendance and walking the perimeter of the field taking in drills.

    Without the ability to watch quarterback Smith, one of the Mountaineers' most prominent potential pros, they instead witnessed the work of other position groups. Offensive line got some attention, a position filled with players like Josh Jenkins and Joey Madsen who could potentially garner the attention of NFL teams when the 2013 draft comes around.

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