Situational Scrimmage Caps Week One

Drizzly, overcast skies greeted the Mountaineer football team for their first scrimmage of the spring.

Despite the off and on mist that fell to the AstroPlay surface throughout much of the morning, the players did not seem to be affected, as the comfortable temperatures were perfect for gridiron action.

After several periods of individual and small unit work, the offense and defense met for a controlled scrimmage that lasted just over an hour. The first team offense looked crisp, putting together a pair of scoring drives that began from their own 30-yard line. Kay Jay Harris punctuated the first drive with a sweep around left end for a touchdown that included a flattenting of free safety Vince Beamer. The big hit drew oohs from everyone on the field, and left Harris a bit woozy for a few minutes. Harris did not return to the scrimmage after the hit.

With the quarterbacks being live in the scrimmage, Rich Rodriguez worked heavily on quarterback running plays. Rasheed Marshall looked very good, running several designed keepers and picking up good yardage. He scored on a nifty 15-yard scamper on another drive, and seemed to be at ease in directing the Mountaineer veterans.

The other star of the situational scrimmage was running back Bryan Wright, who displayed both speed and toughness during the session. Wright burst through the line on his first carry of the scrimmage and sailed 70 yards for a touchdown, evoking reminiscences of his performance in the spring a season ago. Wright also ran well in traffic, picking up tough yards between the tackles on several occasions. Wright capped his day in goal line drills, skipping by two would be tacklers to score another touchdown near the end of the practice session.

Chrish Henry and Nathan Forse also had touchdown receptions, but the offense wasn't totally dominant on the day. The second team defense shut down their opponents on the first two series when they faced off, and also recorded a few of big hits. Beamer got a bit of revenge by flattening Jason Colson near the goal line, and walkon defensive back Nelson Devenzin racked up the hit of the day by crushing tight end Brad Palmer after he had pulled in a nice grab down the seam. Devenzin picked up the fumble he caused and returned it some 60 yards, much to the delight of his blue-clad teammates. Jeff Noechel also smacked running back Freddie Little after Little lost his helmet on a run.


Charles Hales and Dwayne Thompson both lined up as slot receivers on a couple of occasions. Hales almost pulled in a catch of his own, but was racked up and couldn't hang on to the ball.

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The Mountaineer offense worked a good bit on goal line situations both before the officiated scrimmage and at the end of the scrimmage work. WVU threw several jump balls to Chris Henry in those situations.

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The highlight of the small group work was one on one battles between offensive and defensive linemen. During these drills, one offensive lineman tries to keep a defensive lineman away from a tackling dummy that is positioned as the quarterback. Seeing each lineman get his turn in the spotlight really allows observers to focus on the men in the trenches as individuals, and highlights the tough work they do on every play.

Of course, the head to head nature of the work guarantees that there will be a winner and loser on every play, which gives WVU's most voluble coaches, Bill Kirelawich and Rick Trickett, plenty to comment on.

Center Jeremy Hines had an excellent performance during this session, often stoning his man near the line of scrimmage. Ernest Hunter displayed some improved pass rushing skills, and recorded a few victories as well.

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Wide receiver coach Steve Bird turned a drill into a lot of fun for his receivers. Bird donned a pair of arm pads and played the part of a jamming defensive back whilethe pass catchers tried to get off the line. Bird used different jams while coaching his receivers to get their own arms up and ward off the defenders. Occasionally, Bird would give a kung fu-like move and pat one of his charges on the back of the head as they went by, which caused lots of laughter and commentary from the wideouts.

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Wide receiver Stephon Ashcraft was in a red jersey as he still suffered form the effects of his hamstring injury. Pac Man Jones was cut down on a wicked block from wide receiver John Pennington, and did not return to the field.

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The punt team got the bulk of special teams work, running through several snaps for the first, second and third teams. Work was done on both the standard and rugby punts, with Eric Daugherty kicking for the first squad. (Daugherty is also serving as the second team holder behind George Shehl.) Adam Jones was the first team punt return man, but Milo Austin and Vaughn Rivers also got chances on returns.

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The only field goal attempt of the day was marred by a bad snap. All the extra points attempted were successful, but Boo McLee stormed through a gap and nearly blocked one Brad Cooper attempt.

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The team will take the day off on Sunday before returning to the practice field Monday afternoon.

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