It was the first of several stints of extracurricular activity during WVU’s most spirited open practice of the spring as the Mountaineers prepare to wrap things up and close out the spring with the Gold-Blue Game. After head coach Dana Holgorsen called him the “clear cut” No. 1 option at the quarterback option prior to the start of Saturday’s practice, junior Skyler Howard continued to show progress and looks as comfortable running the WVU offense as ever. Howard threw two touchdown passes, both to senior Jordan Thompson, while second-team signal caller William Crest threw for two scores of his own - connecting with Devonte Mathis and Ricky Rogers.
As far as the running game went, WVU was dealing with slight depth issues once again as Wendell Smallwood was held out of practice with an injury for precautionary reasons, which meant a few more carries for freshman Donte Thomas-Williams who combined with Rushel Shell to take the majority of the carries with the Mountaineer offense.
Thomas-Williams led all backs in yards and scored from 56 yards out on one of the first drives of the scrimmage.
But it wasn't all about the offense Saturday, as the defense took some more strides despite dealing with a handful of injuries. The two biggest plays were made by the two players battling it out for the free safety job as both sophomore Dravon Henry and junior Jeremy Tyler both intercepted passes. Henry jumped the route returned one of the first passes of the game from Howard to the end zone for a score. The two are continuing to make plays and will likely head into the season as one of the toughest positional battles to pick from.
The practice began much like they usually do in the periods leading up to the full 11-on-11 scrimmage, with everyone breaking out into their positions to work on fundamentals and utilizing both of the grass fields at the AdvoCare Performance Center to go through their drills. Instead of Oklahoma drills providing the main contact portion of the practice before the scrimmage, West Virginia went into special teams mode and worked on drills centered around kickoff coverage and returns.
After missing last week's open practice following his arrest, WVU defensive lineman Kyle Rose returned to practice and taking his punishment from the coaching staff. He rejoined a first-team defensive line that was without junior defensive end Noble Nwachukwu, who missed practice with a hand injury. Nwachukwu was replaced in the first unit by Eric Kinsey, who continues to have a strong spring and has impressed new defensive line coach Bruce Tall.
Yodny Cajuste, who has been taking reps with the first-team offense at left tackle broke his finger and was replaced in the lineup Saturday by Russell Haughton-James, and they joined Daryl Worley, Jarrod Harper and Dayron Wilson as the Mountaineers who remain sidelined with injuries as West Virginia heads into its final week of practice this spring.