The West Virginia football team kicked off its 2014 season with the start of preseason camp Thursday afternoon at Milan Puskar Stadium.
As the Mountaineers began the first week of practice without pads on, a few players whose futures with the program seemed uncertain in the weeks leading up to the start of camp were on the field with their teammates.
Sophomore running back Wendell Smallwood and senior cornerback Travis Bell were both going through drills Thursday.
Linebackers Jared Barber and Brandon Golson were the only players wearing non-contact jerseys. Barber has been recovering from a knee injury since the end of the 2013 season.
With camp starting, WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen released his preseason depth chart at the beginning of practice. While the offensive side of the ball didn't see many changes, and Shelton Gibson was the only one on the offensive depth chart who did not participate in spring practice, a few newcomers made appearances and could have an impact on defense. As later noted in his press conference, however, the depth chart is certainly not an accurate reflection of standing at this point in the game.
Shaquille Riddick, a defensive end who transferred to WVU from Gardner-Webb over the summer, is listed as a starter at defensive end while Dontrill Hyman - who was listed as a starter after spring was over - was not listed on the depth chart. However, Hyman ran with the first group while Riddick was with the threes.
Pitt transfer Cullen Christian is on the depth chart as the backup at the Spur position behind K.J. Dillon, who aslo did not participate.
At the start of practice, as we usually do, members of the media got to see some special teams work. Among the players fielding punts were receivers Mario Alford, Jordan Thompson, Shelton Gibson and Vernon Davis, corner back Daryl Worley - as well as freshman quarterback William Crest, who took a few reps to start practice.
A handful of players were not participating in practice today. The lone starter among those was Dillon. Freshmen offensive linemen Walter Rauterkus, Dontae Angus and Amanii Brown, freshman wide receiver Jacob McCrary and junior college transfer cornerback Jaylon Myers also weren't practicing. Rauterkus has left the team.
Quarterback Logan Moore took reps with both quarterbacks and receivers Thursday. Clint Trickett, who was recently named the Mountaineers' starter was the sharpest of the WVU signal callers, while Crest was impressive physically but still showed plenty of room for improvement in terms of accuracy.
Defensively, West Virginia started out and spent a lot of the opening session of the season stressing the fundamentals of getting on the field quickly and making sure everyone was in the right spot and ready to make plays, which has become a fairly common practice early in camp as they prepare for the stress of high-tempo offenses all season.
Although it was the first day of practice, meaning the Mountaineers weren't able to put pads on and hit quite yet, the coaching staff still continued to stress the importance of full speed and maximum effort during each drill. But for the most part, the practice focused mostly on essential fundamentals for a WVU team that is looking to bounce back after last season's 4-8 finish. Offensive linemen worked on footwork, running backs focused on agility and ball security and defensive backs spent a lot of the 30 minutes media members saw working on backpedaling and pre-snap drills.