Spring Practice Notebook 4/4

The finer points of special teams play received considerable attention from WVU coaches at Thursday's practice, as small group drills aimed at improving on the most basic fundamentals dominated the 30-minute period reporters were permitted to watch.

Again, the majority of the coaches were working with a pair of groups that focused on kickoff coverage. Head coach Dana Holgorsen was joined by special teams coordinator Joe DeForest and assistants Tony Gibson, Keith Patterson, Lonnie Galloway and JaJuan Seider.

The drills were basic in nature, focusing on engaging an opposing blocker, shedding the block and quickly identifying the proper pursuit angle to take to bring down the return man.

No fundamental was too small to work on, as Seider had to remind one of his charges to stay low through the initial contact with the blocker before powering through the legs to push the blocker up and out of the way. Even the way the coverage men separate from the blockers was a point of emphasis, as players were instructed to use their inside arm to chop over the blocker's shoulder and through the arm to not allow any grabbing or other contact.

In another station, led by Gibson and Patterson, players focused on maintaining a proper angle through their coverage lane before quickly exploding upfield to the ballcarrier at the proper moment.

Of course field goal kicking was part of the special teams work as well, and Josh Lambert and the kicking unit rebounded nicely from what was a shaky Tuesday session. Lambert was a perfect 5-for-5 on his kicks, with plenty of power on each of them.

Only one attempt, which just shaded through the right upright, was even close to missing its intended target.

Once the special teams periods were over, reporters did get to watch a few minutes of a drill that pitted blockers and tacklers against each other in small groups.

Each rep consisted of a defensive lineman and a linebacker going against two offensive linemen. Quarterbacks took turns handing off to running backs, who attempted to work through the traffic while staying close to their blockers.

The offense fared reasonably well for most of the drill, drawing some disappointment from Patterson and defensive line coach Erik Slaughter, who took turns shaking their heads and working to correct mistakes from their respective charges.

But Slaughter had reason to be encouraged with what he saw from defensive linemen Kyle Rose and Will Clarke later in the drill, when each had highlight-worthy reps, beating an initial double-team to quickly get to the opposing ball-carrier.

RIFLE REPORTS:

  • Offensive lineman Pat Eger, who injured his ankle on Tuesday, was not in action at Thursday's practice. He wore a red jersey and was working on a stationary bike. Eger was not wearing a boot on the foot and was pedaling vigorously without any noticeable pain.

    In terms of those on the field, linebacker Jewone Snow was the only player in a green jersey signaling limited participation.

  • There was a familiar face among the recruits (and their parents) at practice.

    Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Paul Zeise was on the sidelines as a guest of the football program, visiting the Mountaineers with his son, Elijah, a wide receiver prospect from North Allegheny (Pa.) High School who holds offers from Pitt and Temple and has attracted attention from WVU, Maryland, Penn State and Rutgers.

  • Mountaineer assistant coaches are slated to meet with reporters later Thursday evening. Check back with BlueGoldNews.com for videos of those interviews and written stories in the coming days. WVU's next practice availability for reporters will come on Tuesday.


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