One Third Done

The Mountaineer football team dropped back to just helmets and shoulderpads for day five of spring practice.

Under springlike conditions (at least until the sun dropped behind the stadium horizon), the Mountaineer football team got in some good work, but the injury bug made its first big appearance of the spring.

During running drills, both Kay Jay Harris and Bryan Wright sustained blows to the head, which sidelined them for the remainder of practice. Both were wearing new helmets, which are supposed to provide additional protection against concussions.

It was the second straight practice day that Harris was knocked out by a hit - he wobbled to the sidelines on Saturday after delivering a big smack to Vince Beamer.

The sudden drop in available backs led to a couple of new faces at the superback position. Fullback Hikee Johnson got some time in the single back set, and walkon Fred Little also received several carries as a member of the first team.

With running back numbers dropping like the temperature, the offense concentrated on the fullback game. Both Johnson and walkon Leonard Merriman got several chances to show their stuff.

Adam Jones and Lawrence Audena both missed the practice session (presumably due to class), which gave several second teamers an opportunity to make claims for playing time. Larry Williams and Joe Hunter filled in for Jones opposite Anthony Mims, while Abraham Jones and Jermaine Moye were the first and second players at the bandit position.

Practice followed a standard pattern, with unit work graduating to seven on seven, and finally culminating with about 40 minuts of full 11 on 11 work.

RIFLE REPORTS

Brian King and Quincy Wilson both put in appearances at practice.

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Tight end Josh Bailey returned to practice wearing a harness to protect his injured shoulder. Although he was wearing a normal white shirt, he did not fully participate in contact drills.

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Big plays on the day included the flattening of Ernest Hunter by Kay Jay Harris on an inside run, and a heads up one-handed interception by Scott Gyorko on a hot route to the tight end. Gyorko stepped in front of a short pass from Charles Hales and rumbled in the opposite direction after making an outstanding catch.

Hales made up for that miscue by hitting Chris Henry in stride on a down and in route that the fleet junior turned into a score.

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Miquelle Henderson continued his impressive spring with a reaching catch on a long pass that he held on to despite a hit from Joe Hunter. Brandon Myles also had a couple of good catches and drew notice from coaches for his performance.

On the down side, senior Eddie Jackson continued to struggle. Rodriguez noted Jackson "is pressing and confused", and added that it was good that Jackson had spring as well as fall two-a-days to prepare.

"Hopefully he will be ready by two-a-days, because we are really counting on him this year," the Mountaineer mentor said.

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Center Zac Naiper got some work at left guard, which opened the door for walkon Hampton Rose to get some snaps at second team center.

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Quarterback play continued to look sharp. Rasheed Marshall and Hales threw the ball well, and Dwayne Thompson bounced back from an off day to throw the ball with more zip than he displayed on Saturday.

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The punt team again got the bulk of special teams work, with Eric Daugherty getting the kicks with the first team punt unit. Rodriguez noted that the punt team has improved since the start of spring. Punt protection, for both the first and second units, was solid during the special teams periods.


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