Thoughts, observations and meanderings from a beautiful day for football at Mountaineer Field
While I'm worried about the offense, we should note that as many as six potential starters weren't on the field for Saturday's scrimmage. Those missing the action included quarterback Adam Bednarik, wide receiver Brandon Myles, running back Jason Colson, and offensive linemen Travis Garrett, Dan Mozes an Jeremy Sheffey.
That doesn't mean, of course that their return will immediately solve the Mountaineers' offensive woes. The passing game, which is mostly limited to screens and short out patterns, has a long way to go before it can serve as even a diversion to the running game.
On the bright side, the defense looks better, and that's not just going on the way it has limited the offense during full scale work. In general, pursuit to the ball seems better, and overall there might be a step more speed in evidence.
Another nice thing to see has been the crisp tackling. The defensive coaches' mantra this spring has been "put them on the ground", and for the most part, there haven't been a great deal of missed tackles during the first weeks of spring.
Aslo noticeable is the lack of penalties and major mental mistakes. While a few of these have occurred (Saturday's big one was the failure of Rayshawn Bolden to get out of bounds after a catch during a two-minute drill), there hasn't been the steady parade of offsides, false starts and other errors that typified last year's squad.
Now, if this year's team can carry that over into the fall, and also stay away from the boneheaded celebration and personal fouls that hurt the 2004 team so badly, it could be the difference in a game or two. And with the Mountaineers' expected position in the conference, that could be the difference between a very good bowl and an average bowl.
Everyone's anticipating the arrival of Jason Gwaltney this fall, and while I'm as curious as anyone to see how he does, I don't think he is the most important of the incoming freshmen. Not because he's not unbelievably talented (which he is), but because he doesn't have to be a major contributor right off the bat for WVU to be successful.
That mantle belongs to incoming kickers Scott Kozlowski and Patrick McAfee, both of whom might be the starters at punter and placekicker when WVU invades Syracuse the first weekend of September. That's a lot of pressure for freshmen, not to mention freshmen that will have all eyes glued to them. Other than qurterback and possibly cornerback, there's no more individual pressure on anyone other than kickers or punters. If they bolster the Mountaineers' decidedly shaky kicking game during fall camp, will they be able to handle the pressure in the Big East opener?
In addition to the players listed above, a number of other players missed Saturday's scrimmage. Those sidelined included Jake Figner (mononucleosis), Aaron Meckstroth, Justin Dziak, and Aaron Howell (kidney infection).
Backup cornerback Thandi Smith took some skeleton drills at bandit before the scrimmage on Saturday.
In the final stages of Saturday's scrimmage, the offense ran a series of plays in pairs close to the goal line. The first came from the three-yard line, while the second came from the one. The defense managed to stop the offense on eight of the 12 total plays run.
Interestingly, many of those plays were inside runs. On only two of the 12 snaps did WVU's quarterbacks, who are decidedly mobile, roll out with the ball.