Spring Football Thoughts

Over the coming weeks, we'll do some detailed analyses of the football team on a position by position basis, but for now we want to share some general observations on what we saw and observed Saturday and throughout spring practice.

ITEM: Quarterback play improved

That was obvious for those at Saturday's Gold-Blue game, but for those who had the chance to watch Rasheed Marshall and Danny Embick throughout the spring, Saturday's contest was another step forward.

Both QBs threw the ball well and with velocity, and suffered only one interception in a combined 45 throws.

They both also ran well, and made solid decisions when running with the ball on the perimeter.

ITEM: Feeling Safe-ty

The emergence of Lawrence Audena to complement Jahmile Addae at free safety was a nice surprise, and will pay dividends in more ways than one.

Audena had six tackles and Addae three in Saturday's contest, and they weren't wimpy pushes out of bounds. Both brought the lumber when making hits, and both were very sure in their tackling techniques.

If this A-list pair can continue to improve, they should form an excellent one-two punch at free. That, in turn, will allow Angel Estrada to concentrate on the spur position, where he can be a big factor with his apss coverage and hitting ability.

ITEM: Linebacker Blues?

The lack of depth at linebacker forced some mid-spring shuffling when Adam Lehnortt went down with a dislocated elbow. Grant Wiley was tried on the outside, providing more time for players like Scott Gyorko, Shane Graham, Mo Howard and Alex Lake to show their stuff.

Though undersized and not particularly speedy, these players put on solid performances during the final week of practice. Gyorko and Howard recorded nine and seven tackles, respectively, in the spring game, and showed a knack for getting to the ball.

WVU isn't going to intimidate anyone with the size or "athletic ability" of their linebacking corps, but in our opinion that's becoming somewhat overrated. Give us a football player who makes plays, and you can have all the 4.5 forty guys you want. It looks like the Mountaineers might be able to field a tough, gritty group of LBs that don't look snazzy, but end up making a lot of tackles. We'll take it!

ITEM: Line-r Notes

There has to be a down side to the spring, and without a doubt it was the injury stricken offensive line. This unit was devastated by injury during the spring, and don't think for a minute that it won't have an effect this fall. Every lost snap takes away from the cohesiveness and effectiveness of a unit, and the offensive line is the one group that depends on functioning well together more than any other.

This is not to say that the line is going to be a problem or a disappointment. There don't seem to be any attitudes or prima donnas among the group, and in coach Rick Trickett they have a guy who knows how to teach and build a cohesive group. It's simply that the chance to build a group with some depth was dealt a setback with all the injuries they suffered.

That makes the fall all the more critical for the OLine. They must use every second of two a days to their advantage to refine their techniques and get comfortable with their linemantes, and they must hang their magic charms to keep away the injury bug. The first, of course, they have control over. The second is up to the football gods.

ITEM: Missing In Action

Along those same lines, several other players who missed the spring game (and all or parts of spring practice) will be counted on to return ready and in shape for the fall, because they are going to be needed on the field.

In additon to the linemen, players such as cornerback Brian King, tight end Tory Johnson, spur Angel Estrada, linebacker Adam Lehnortt, wide receivers Phil Braxton and Mike Page and defensive lineman Tim Love are all being counted on as either starters or key reserves who will see the field a great deal. Can they recover from their injuries and work their way back? the answer to that question must be "yes" for the majority of these questions is WVU is to improve on last season's record.

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