Partial Pads Donned for Day Three

It wasn't the full contact that coaches (and fans) are craving, but there was at least a bit of hitting during Wednesday's practice session inside Milan Puskar Stadium at Mountaineer Field.

With the team donning shoulder pads and helmets, there was some physical contact, especially during inside run sessions, but no tackling was allowed as the team went through the third day of preaseason practice.

Although the day was warm, intermittent clouds did pass over to cool things off, causing head coach Rich Rodriguez to yell for the sun to make a reappearance. Unlike a wayward quarterback or lineman, however, obedience from the heavens wasn't always swift.

Rodriguez, of course, wants to see hot temperatures to help round his team into game shape.

With shoulder pads in place (called "shells" by the team and "lumberjack", by ever-inventive Blue & Gold News staffer Chris Richardson), the coaches got their first chance to do serious work on the inside running game. Each running back had their moments as they rotated among the first, second and third units, but the injury bug again showed up.

After making several hard runs and delivering a memorable stiffarm, Kay Jay Harris was slowed by a thigh problem. Jason Colson, who also ran well for a while, was bothered by an ankle injury and limped through drills, while Bryan Wright, who got some duty with the first team kickoff return unit alongside Adam Jones, also missed time with a thigh problem.

The emphasis during these periods was on staying inside, and not bouncing anything wide, which has been a problem for some WVU backs in the past.

Brad Cooper continued to solidfy his hold on the kicking job by nailing several kicks, including a 45-yarder. Andy Good, who is noticeably bigger than last year, also made some improvements and kicked the ball better. Successful kicks earned pushups from Rodriguez, who dropped and cranked out several reps for each good boot.

Both the placekicking and punt units went against a live rush, although the attempts to block punts appeared to be much closer to live conditions. Transfer Phil Brady had an outstanding day, nailing several high, long, and well-placed boots against pressure.

The passing game, of course, wasn't ignored. Today's session included a good bit of work on intermediate routes, which has been the weak point of the Mountaineer attack in recent seasons. During these drills, running backs were encouraged to work on selling their fakes. Among the backs, Wright stood out as a leading practitioner of this art.

On defense, a great deal of work is still being done on installing schemes. While much of this is still at walk through and half speed pace, it's perhaps one of the most important segments of fall practice as Jeff Casteel and the defensive staff try to get defensive assignments polished up.

The defensive backs are also paying attention to their jamming skills and initial reads on receivers' routes during individual periods. Defensive backs coach Tony Gibson is looking for a fourth DB to add to the group of Jones, Anthony Mims and Larry Williams, all of whom appear to be solidly in the rotation at cornerback.

The fourth practice session is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

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