Spring Notebook - 3/25/02

We look back at the first week of spring football practice.

Full contact work always brings a different look to spring practice, so last Thursday's hitting session gave onlookers their first chance to check out the Mountaineers in full gear. There are always a couple of players that don't look like much in helmets and shorts, but put them in full pads and their talent immediately becomes apparent.

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Not that he falls into that category that we were just discussing, but offensive tackle Tim Brown really looks to have had a good winter. Brown displayed an excellent combination of footwork and strength during the first week as he dominated opponents in drills.If Brown can continue to imporve his level of play, WVU could again showcase a dominating rushing game.

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One item that quickly becomes apparent is the increased decisiveness at the quarterback position. Last year, WVU QBs would roll or sprint out, and often hold the ball too long looking for a receiver.

In Rich Rodriguez' offense, that's a no-no. Coach Rod wants a quick decision on run/pass options, and if the first sessions are any indications he's getting it. Both Rasheed Marshall and Danny Embick got to the corner on those types of plays, and most often they either got rid of the ball crisply or tucked it under and got upfield for a few yards.

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Another new feature of practices this spring is a manager throwing a white towel at the end of every play. It's not, as some suspected, a sign of surrender from the managers, who run around at top speed to keep pace with the no huddle offense.

Instead, it's simply a reference for the films that are shot of practice. Those films don't include audio, so there's no easy way for the coaches to tell when the whistle blows. thus, the towel, whcih comes sailing into the play when whistles are sounded. This makes it much easier for the coaches to grade "hustle" and determine who is playing hard all the way through the end of the play.

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The pace of play on offense is also a bit quicker than it was last season, with the offense, especially the first gorup, being much more comfortable with the plays and formations.

Tht's not to say that plays are being run every five seconds, but there is a noticeable increase in the tempo.

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In facility news, the new AstroPlay surface for Mountaineer Field is scheduled to be installed begining April 22. That's the Monday after the Gold-Blue spring football game. There are approximately six weeks available for the installation, as the surface nas to be down and ready to go for the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics.

That timetable should be able to be met, however, as no understructure work needs to be done to the field. The new AstroPlay surface will work fine over WVU's exisiting base. The same surface and base combination are already in place at Army.

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Several players headed for warmer climates this week as WVU is on spring break, including offensive lineman Justin Williams. Williams, along with a couple of teammates, planned to spend the week in Cancun, Mexico. Hopefully, we won't see them on any MTV specials!

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