Spring Practice Noteboook 3/19

With players permitted to wear pads for each of the last two practices, new Mountaineer assistant Ron Crook and his offensive linemen can do work that more resembles what they do on a game day. But it isn't all about hitting.

Indeed, much of the work WVU's O-linemen did at Tuesday's practice (or, at least, for the 30 minutes reporters were permitted to witness) was focused on fundamentals and the mental side of the game.

Crook spent an extensive amount of time working his players in small groups. The drills were focused on teaching zone blocking techniques, with only one side of the line (center, guard, tackle) working at a time.

Every movement was worth scrutiny, from the placement of the first step, to the moment to turn and open the hips when running outside zone, to what a guard should do first when not faced with a defensive lineman lined up immediately in front of him, to the difference in hip angle when running inside zone.

Still, it wasn't as though Crook showed much of an "in-your-face" style. He was unfailingly encouraging, even making corrections in a positive way: "You felt it at the end," Crook said to one player after a rep with a less-than-ideal start. "Just open your hips more and go."

When players had specific questions, Crook always took the time to answer them, even if it meant a brief interruption in drill work. He seemed satisfied with what he saw. "Good," he said after one rep. "Now, just quicker."

The drills were conducted with other offensive linemen serving as a faux defensive front, and Crook ensured each play was run against multiple fronts.

It's clear Crook is still adjusting to the way practices are run at West Virginia in some ways, though. He prepared to take his players into a different drill by themselves when other coaches beckoned the offensive linemen over for a "team" period. "Well, what the hell are you guys waiting for? Let's go," Crook joked to his players.

The period involved two offensive linemen (with a quarterback and running back lined up behind them) taking on a defensive lineman and a linebacker. Cones weren't on the field, but in some ways, this was similar to what would be done in a "Oklahoma drill" in past years.

The offense largely got the better of the defense in the work, with a couple of notable exceptions. Redshirt freshman Adam Pankey got much of the praise for his work, while the star for the defensive was linebacker Doug Rigg, who delivered a big shot on one rep and forced a fumble on another.

All the while, Crook showed his calm demeanor, rarely audible from the sidelines while defensive line coach Erik Slaughter, head coach Dana Holgorsen and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson could be heard easily as they barked out instructions.

The offensive line was dominant often enough that Holgorsen chided the defenders clad in blue: "It doesn't look like football to me," he barked out to no one in particular. "We need some D-linemen."

On the next snap, Eric Kinsey burst through a block and made a quick tackle, getting praise from Holgorsen. The drill went back and forth, each side trading victories here and there, before an air horn blew to end the period and tell reporters it was time to leave practice.


  • Josh Lambert continued to be one of the stars of the spring, as he was perfect on five kicks early in Tuesday's practice -- no small feat considering the magnitude of the wind swirling inside Milan Puskar Stadium.

    Lambert made a pair of tries from 29 yards, a 34-yarder from the left hash, a point-after kick and a 42-yard kick from between the hashes. The longest attempt bounced off the right upright before going through. Still, Lambert has shown consistency early in spring -- something that has occasionally been lacking in recent years.

  • Quarterbacks had a fun time working with position coach Shannon Dawson -- and Holgorsen -- while their teammates stretched at the beginning of the period.

    The drill involved four large, blue dummies serving as traffic for the signal-callers to sort through. Dawson and Holgorsen (both wearing forearm pads) would swing the dummies into each player's path, giving them obstacles to avoid while keeping their eyes down the field. It was also a test of ball security, as each coach would take swipes at the ball at times. Paul Millard was forced to fumble once by Dawson, generating a bit of consternation from Holgorsen.

    The head coach was particularly charged up for the drill, intensely swinging the dummies and, at one point, using his forearm pad to hit a quarterback in the face (it's worth noting the players were wearing helmets). Players and coaches alike enjoyed the drill, laughing, but the work was very much relevant and intense in nature.

  • West Virginia players are scheduled to meet with reporters for the first time this spring later on Tuesday evening. BlueGoldNews.com will have videos and written stories in the coming days from those interviews.

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