Defense Holds Upper Hand

One trend that is almost always prevalent in spring football practice is that the defense normally plays better during the first few practices. The same held true during Saturday's situational scrimmage.

For the third straight practice the Mountaineers went through drills at the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility. The room was a lot more crowded on Saturday though as several high school recruits were on hand taking in one of this spring's "Junior Days." We'll have more on that later in the week, but for right now we'll focus on Saturday's practice.

There were a couple of notable players limited by injury on Saturday. As noted in yesterday's practice report, senior running back/slot receiver Jason Colson injured his leg during Oklahoma drills on Friday. On Saturday the Rochester, New York native wore a green "limited contact" jersey and did not participate in any inside running or 11 on 11 full contact drills. Junior Antonio Lewis, who is vying for a starting spot in the defensive secondary at the boundary corner position, wore a red jersey and did not participate in any practice after suffering a turf toe injury. Two other members of the secondary (Ridwan Malik and Larry Williams) were shaken up at different points during practice, but did not miss much time.

Of the players in the defensive backfield who did practice, free safety Quinton Andrews was without question the star of the day. The redshirt freshman delivered several big hits, and also showed good coverage skills downfield. His best play of the day came when wide receiver Dwayne Thompson took a pass over the middle in traffic, but was immediately met by Andrews. The result of the ferocious hit was a fumble, which was then recovered by the blue-clad defense.

Offensively, center Dan Mozes was probably the most consistent performer on the day. The senior Outland Award candidate opened several nice holes for Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt, and Pat White during 11 on 11 work. White had a few plays that brought back memories of last season, but the fact that he's not allowed to be tackled probably contributed to that.

During one-on-one work with receivers and defensive backs, there were a couple of noteable plays made. The first was a beautiful catch by junior Darius Reynaud over Vaughn Rivers, who was at defensive back for the second consecutive practice. Walk-on wide receiver John Allevato also had a diving grab inside the ten yardline after beating his defender down the field.

The final part of Saturday's practice featured goalline drills, and despite having put in over two hours of work already neither side was willing to give anything to the other. On offense tight end Adam Serena showed great blocking ability while taking on defensive linemen, linebackers, and even defensive backs. Jeremy Bruce, who is splitting time between slot receiver and running back this spring, caught a short touchdown pass late in the drill.

The defense made several plays in this final situation as well. White had a pass tipped by Boo McLee, which was then intercepted by Eric Wicks. To the shock of everyone in attendance, Wicks did not return this interception for a score as he has done with both of his career regular season interceptions. Safety Aaron Meckstroth, who has been a solid contributor on special teams during his Mountaineer career, delivered a big hit on freshman quarterback Nate Sowers near the sideline as Sowers was attempting to make it to paydirt.

A pair of notable observers took in Saturday's drills. Recently departed bandit/spur safety Mike Lorello was on hand watching his former teammates for much of the day. Future Mountaineer receiver Wes Lyons made the short drive down from Pittsburgh with some members of his family and stayed the whole time.

The team will have tomorrow off before resuming drills again on Monday afternoon.

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