Practice Continues Focus on Schemes and Skills

A bit better weather, including partly sunny skies, greeted the Mountaineer football team on Day Two of spring practice, but the typical Morgantown spring chill still prevailed over the AstroPlay surface of Milan Puskar Stadium.

Individual and small group work was the theme of the day as the coaching staff worked on techniques and incorporating those improvements into the offensive and defensive schemes. Each position group did a good bit of work with their position coaches before a session of team pass.

The offense continued yesterday's work of running at top, or jet, speed during skeleton drills. Players hustled on and off as the offense, minus the line, ran plays against air, from a number of different formations.

"We do a lot of skeleton pass the first couple of days, because you can't do much else in shorts," head coach Rich Rodriguez noted. "We'll try to throw a lot at them and see how much they have retained."

The quarterbacks shuffled among the first, second and third teams, with each signalcaller getting a chance with different units. Overall, Rasheed Marshall continued to use his experience to maintain a bit of an edge over his competitors.

"Coach Stewart has a plan to rotate them all in and out, and they are all getting pretty much the same amount of reps," Rodriguez said of getting all the field generals sufficient repetition. "We're going to do a lot more with our QBs this year that we haven't been able to do the past couple of years. I'm excited about that."

The wide receivers had a few problems, dropping some passes they should have come up with, to the displeasure of receivers coach Steve Bird. Miquelle Henderson and Pac Man had some spirited battles during the few sessions of seven on seven passing, and Milo Austin had the best catch of day with a diving reception.

The offense also worked on their "coming out" series from the goal line, which was obviously limited to passing only.

During the breakdown sessions, quarterbacks threw to every gorup of receivers, while the offensive and defensive line worked in two and three man groups on their starts, hand and foot positioning, and staying low and maintaining leverage. The lack of pads didn't prevent Rick Trickett, who is no doubt looking forward to Friday's padded workout, from prodding his charges and ramping up the intensity.

Rodriguez was pleased with improvements in technique he saw on the field today as compared to yesterday's file review.

"We saw better techniqe than what we saw yesterday," the fourth-year coach said. "Today, we improved. If we make steps over the course of 15 days, we'll be a better team than we were."

On the injury front, Stephon Ashcraft sustained a hamstring injury, but it did not appear serious. Chris Henry had his foot and ankle retaped after one drill, but also returned to the field.


Safeties coach Bruce Tall worked a great deal with Ben Clemmons, who is on his third position as a Mountaineer. Clemmons started as a defensive end, moved to linebacker, and is geting a chance at spur this spring.

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Brad Palmer and Chris Malamet both played tight end during the session. Malamet was moved to that spot during bowl practices last year.

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Quarterback Charles Hales ran some patterns as a wide receiver. Rodriguez noted that "it's good for a quarterback to know the wide receiver positions, so we can run trick plays if we want to."

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Recovering linebacker Adam Lehnortt was a coach on the field, helping teach the young linebackers as they try to position themselves for playing time.

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Most of the players who missed practice yesterday due to class returned to the field today. Only Ryan Thomas, who apparently had an afternoon class, was absent from the start of drills. He did appear later in the session.

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After some moving around, Eddie Jackson will be a slot receiver to start out.

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With Erick Phillips out, the four top running backs are getting plenty of work. Bryan Wright is getting the most reps he's seen in a Mountaineer uniform, behind Kay Jay Harris and Jason Colson.

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