WVU Camp Notebook: Day Four

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - It was first look time for West Virginia’s first team offense and defense in abbreviated 11-on-11 action Thursday at the Mountaineers’ second open practice of fall camp. Quarterback Skyler Howard led the first team in an up-tempo situation with crowd noise being piped in over the loud speakers.

Howard appeared poised in the small time that we got to see him, but fake crowd noise and the relaxed nature of the fall camp atmosphere might have had something to do with that. William Crest was working with the quarterbacks today, instead of fielding punts, and went in with the second-team during 11-on-11’s. He was joined in the backfield by running backs Donte Thomas-Williams and Elijah Wellman.

Before the 11-on-11 drill, the quarterbacks went through a variety of footwork and situational drills with offensive graduate assistant Michael Burchett. Howard and Crest both displayed good footwork within the pocket and on roll-outs, but Howard separated himself during the play action drills with better ball work.

Burchett emphasized freezing the defense with a believable fake, both on the roll-out and in zone read situations, and after a less than stellar first effort, Howard picked himself up and finished strong through the rest of the drill, nailing the target on the overwhelming majority of his throws.

On the defensive side of the ball, safeties and linebackers worked on their hands with interception drills, as they ran through traffic (tackling dummies) and were expected to catch line drive passes from assistant coaches.

All of WVU’s starting secondary in Daryl Worley, Terrell Chestnut, Karl Joseph and Dravon Henry made it through with ease, as you might expect, but linebacker K.J. Dillon really stood out in this drill. Not only did he catch everything that was thrown his way, when his turn was over he stood at the front of the line waiting for his teammates. When they thought they were done with the drill, Dillon tried to pop the ball loose, exclaiming “You don’t want that ball!” every time.

Dillon proved to be WVU’s most athletic defender last season, sometimes drawing tough slot receiver cover assignments, and handling them all well, while still showing he can come around the edge and get to the quarterback while being a proficient run-stuffer as well. That athleticism hasn’t gone unnoticed by the coaching staff, as he has garnered some reps in the return game this fall. Dillon worked with the kickoff return team this afternoon and appeared calm and confident when the ball was in the air, but explosive when he had it secured in his hands.

It is uncertain whether he will actually see any time in the return game in the regular season as coaches might want to limit the number of hits he takes, considering the way he throws his weight around on defense, but with his raw athleticism it will be tempting to throw him back there from time to time.

On the injury front, there was just one thing to report. Redshirt junior safety Jarrod Harper donned a green limited contact jersey today. Head coach Dana Holgorsen did not mention Harper in his presser earlier in the day. Freshman wide receiver Jovon Durante made his first appearance at camp today, but he was in a green jersey as well, in accordance with the NCAA’s three-practice acclimation phase of bringing in new players. We expect him to be at a full-go by next week at the latest.

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