Practice Opens Under Sunny Skies

There couldn't have been better weather for the Mountaineer football team as they opened practice for the 2004 season under beautiful conditions on the grass practice fields at the WVU football complex.

The team used the grass fields while the stadium is undergoing some repair work to the AstoPlay surface. Keen observers may have noticed that the white yard lines, numbers and hashmarks have been shedding strands over the past couple seasons, so replacement of those areas has been contracted and is underway.

As a result, the first drills of fall 2004 were run on the grass fields, which were in outstanding condition.

As prescribed by the NCAA, no contact is allowed during the first week of practice, so the team. clad in helmets and shorts, worked a good deal on individual and unit skills before coming togehter the last few periods of practice for some 11 on 11 work.

Naturally, with no hitting permitted, emphasis was placed on the passing game, with a number of screens, swings and flare passes dominating the day's work.

During individual and unit drills, a few new wrinkles were unveiled to allow maximum utilization of practice time. As many as five quarterbacks threw passes to five different receivers on the same repetition, while the punt team also lined up mulitple players as they worked on footwork and protection techniques. Punt protection was also broken down into sections, with both the inside protectors and the wings getting work in groups of three.

Quarterbacks were also put under the gun, as coach Bill Stewart oversaw a drill where the QBs took a snap, threw a pass, then frecevied another snap and repeated the process as quickly as possible. That drill was designed to get the QBs into position to receive the ball, then into their throwing motion as soon as possible.


Although no specific return work was done on Day One, both Adam Jones and Antonio Lewis looked very comfortable returning kickoffs.

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Head coach Rich Rodriguez said Brandon Barrett, who did not report, might be a partial qualifier, which would allow him to practice with the team, but not play, this fall. However, all 85 scholarship positions are currently filled, so a spot would have to open up before that eventuality would be considered.

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Lineman Kevin Burke, who was greyshirted last year, did not report early, but will report when school begins. That portends a likely redshirt season for the big lineman.

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Starting bandit Lawrence Audena missed most of practice due to class. In his place, Ridwan Malik, who moved down from free safety, ran with the first team. Joe Hunter was moved to wide receiver in the only other notable personnel move so far.

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The defensive front worked with a four man front at times during the 11 on 11 sessions, with Joe Sykes and Jules Montinar manning the fourth down lineman spot. Criag Wilson often replaced Ben Lynch with this group.

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Practice continues on Tuesday with another afternoon session.

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