Skyler Howard and Rushell Shell Discuss Growth As Players, Early Impressions of Mountaineer Offense

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - In the first player interview sessions of West Virginia's fall camp Skyler Howard and Rushel Shell voiced their early thoughts and opinions on the growth of the Mountaineers offense.

In the video above Skyler Howard details the work that the West Virginia offense has put in through the very early stages of fall camp. Howard explained that right now the main focus of the unit is pushing tempo.

"Right now it's all about going out there and playing fast," Howard explained. "Execution will come once we throw the pads on and start competing."

That tempo should be second nature to the offense as it returns experienced talent across the board, including four starting offensive linemen and every major contributor at wide receiver. A year of playing with all of the receivers has helped Howard develop chemistry with the group and that should play major dividends going forward.

"(The difference from last year) is night and day," Howard said. "The experience out there allows us to just go out there and have fun and play and do it at a high speed this early."

While that sense of camaraderie has the offense humming early Howard says that it still can get better and the unit should strive to come as close to perfection as possible.

"I don't think (the offense) is ever perfected," Howard said. "It's always a work in progress no matter what but as far as where we were (last season) I would say we're a lot closer to perfection. Having that communication and that relationship allows us to see things before they happen and see changes in defenses when they roll, see holes before they are there and make the throw before the cut. That's something we always strive for and it's always a work in progress."

The sense of comfort between Howard and his receivers should help him cut down on the number of interceptions from a year ago. Last year Howard threw 14 interceptions, the highest number by a Mountaineer quarterback in Dana Holgorsen's tenure. Another statistic the West Virginia offense is looking to decrease is the number of sacks allowed. Howard was sacked 31 times last season, tied for second in the Big 12 conference. Although the early portions of practice are non-contact Howard is encouraged by what he sees from his offensive line.

"(The offensive line) are working as a unit," Howard said. "It's a lot better when they're working as one wall as opposed to a bunch of individuals. We'll have to see how strong they are when the pads come on but I see them working as a unit."

Another benefactor to stronger offensive line play will be starting running back Rushel Shell. Shell is also trying to improve his numbers from a season ago and has set some lofty goals for the upcoming season.

"That 1,000 yard mark," Shell replied when asked about his goals. "I haven't broken it yet in my college career and it's something I'm really trying to focus on. That starts with big plays - explosive plays, and a lot of runs over 10 yards."

Last season Shell rushed for 708 yards and played second fiddle to Big 12 rushing leader Wendell Smallwood. But his 708 yards are the most returning on the Mountaineer roster by a large margin. Skyler Howard is the second leading returning rusher with 502 yards in 2015, and after Howard there is a steep drop in production to the versatile William Crest, who only rushed for 107 yards a season ago. That lack of experience has made Shell the veteran of the group and that is a role he has come to embrace early in camp.

"I'm a leader in the (running back) room," Shell said. "At times I might not want them to, but everyone does look at me and watches what I do. I just have to embrace that role and be the leader that they want me to be." 


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