WVU practices in Shepherdstown

West Virginia kicked off its first open practice of the spring on a windy Saturday afternoon in front of a few thousand fans at Ram Stadium - home of the Shepherd University football team in Shepherdstown.

Now that they have practiced for a couple of weeks this spring, the Mountaineers wrapped up their first week of practice in pads with a good mix of position work and live situational periods with 11-on-11 action.

The final half-hour or so of practice was spent in a full scrimmage with the offense squaring off against the West Virginia defense. When the two first-team units were out, it was junior quarterback Skyler Howard leading the charge. He was joined at the skill positions by running back Rushel Shell (as well as Wendell Smallwood), wide receivers Shelton Gibson, Daikiel Shorts and either Devonte Mathis or Jordan Thompson, as well as tight end Cody Clay and the Mountaineers went with Yodny Cajuste, Adam Pankey, Tyler Orlosky, Tony Matteo and Marquis Lucas along the offensive line from left to right.

Defensively, West Virginia started out with Eric Kinsey, Kyle Rose and Noble Nwachukwu on the up front, linebackers Shaq Petteway, Jared Barber and Nick Kwiatkoski and Terrell Chestnut and Jaylon Myers at corner with Karl Joseph, K.J. Dillon and Dravon Henry.

Both defensive units seemed to get the best of the offense more often than not Saturday, as both Howard and redshirt freshman William Crest struggled at times to move the ball down the field. Howard finished the scrimmage with one touchdown pass to Vernon Davis Jr. and one interception, but had a few other throws that were nearly picked off as well, and Crest threw two touchdowns, one to K.J. Myers and one to Devonte Mathis - but fumbled a couple of snaps and recovered them while operating under center.

With freshman running back Donte Thomas- Williams sidelined with a knee injury, Jacky Marcellus took several snaps at running back with the second-team offense along with Elijah Wellman. Marcellus played in the backfield in high school, and was moved back to the position some recently to bring some more depth as West Virginia has just three scholarship running backs on the roster after Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison decided to transfer.

The position drills that started the practice with circuit work in which every group rotated to different stations used to work on different things. The running backs and receivers went back and forth catching short passes and working on ball security drills, while the offensive line worked on footwork and technique and the quarterbacks were practicing read options and rolling out of the pocket to extend plays. While this happened, the WVU defense worked on several drills meant to teach different fundamentals.

After that, the players went through their position drills, they broke into three groups for Oklahoma drills - always a fan favorite during these open periods. That was followed by specialized throwing work for the quarterbacks off to the side while the Mountaineers worked on special teams, with Davis, Marcellus, Lamar Parker and Jordan Thompson back receiving punts. Marcellus had some trouble judging punts in the wind and Parker dropped one.

There were five Mountaineers sidelined with injuries, including three newcomers joining Daryl Worley and Jarrod Harper. Thomas-Williams, who was coming along nicely before suffering a knee injury, is close to coming back, according to WVU running backs coach JaJuan Seider, and they were joined by linebacker Marvin Gross and safety Dayron Wilson.

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