Wednesday Spring Practice Report -- Week Two

West Virginia's defense remained ahead of the offense in the fifth spring practice. But that's no reason, head coach Rich Rodriguez said, for a lack of effort or execution.

The white-clad offense was not only a step slower, but lacked the intensity Rodriguez thought it should. Aside from individual drills, which remained much the same in terms of basic footwork and position prep, the defense got to the ball well and generally controlled the line of scrimmage. It recorded two safeties on a drill designed to get out of the end zone area from the two-yard line, and routinely pressured quarterbacks.

"I always tell the young guys, if you don't know where you are going, run in place," Rodriguez said of Jet Best and the other young tailbacks. "For 2 ½ hours, they ran in place. That tells you where they are at. But they are good guys and they are eager to learn. We are going to keep working with them. I can't imagine not having a spring and trying to get those guys ready. But by the end of spring, by the end they should have at least some semblance of what they are doing."

It wasn't just the backs. The offensive line lacked the push it should be getting with the amount of veterans it has. One must realize, though, that an off practice here or there over a 15-day spring span is going to happen, and that nothing drastic needs to be done. It is simply a case of the proverbial bad day at work, which was frustrating for all.

It turned more so in the second hour of drills, when the teams broke into their lines and the skill players stayed over for skeleton work. Quarterback Pat White ran downfield after all the wideouts were well-covered, and the whistle blew to signal the end of the play. White, in a yellow jersey, is a designated no-contact player, and so is not supposed to be hit. That didn't slow free safety Quinton Andrews from lowering a shoulder into White, who immediately hit the turf.

Another offensive player shoved Andrews, making a point that White was not to be hit, and the two had a 15-second fisticuffs that was broken up by Rodriguez, who explained to Andrews that he need not hit everything that moved. Aggressiveness is fine, but not in that manner.

"I'd be concerned if we never had one," Rodriguez said of the brief scuffle. "If you go through a full-padded football practice and you never have a mix-up here or there, than I would worry about it. We have a thing where we flip a switch when we go on and off the field. It would concern me if we are having them outside the field. But once in a while, as long as it does not last long and they get over it quickly it's not bad."

The individual practice consisted of the usual unit breakdowns with the lone exception being that of the lines, which, in addition to their usual drills, were pitted against each other as well. The tight ends also got rare individual work, being instructed by Herb hand on blocking and hand placement, and turning the hips and shoulder to move defensive players to desired positions. Wideouts worked on selling defenders on downfield routes before going to an out or post pattern while the punters worked on catching balls out of the jug machine and other basics. The running backs paired with quarterbacks for work on handoff exchanges and rollout passes.

Antonio Lewis intercepted a deep pass from White to Steve Slaton. A handful of plays later, Slaton made a great deep catch along the sideline. Mortty Ivy might have had the most impressive day around the ball defensively as he had four pass break ups. Problem is, two of those could have been interceptions. The latter two came in the red zone, effectively negating scores. Andrews and Lewis also combined for a fumble off a pass reception via solid hits at the same time.

West Virginia also worked on driving into the end zone from the five-yard line and out of it from the two. It also spent time on kickoff and punt return. Scott Kozlowski is still struggling with the rugby punt, but remains first team (an essentially useless stat of now). Freshman wideout Michael Poitier was a surprise kick returner.

Brandon Barrett remained in a red (no practice) jersey, while Brad Palmer and Jason Karns were also out along with Rayshawn Bolden, who will miss the entire spring with a broken foot. Marcus Law, Darren Brownlee and Adam Bednarik wore green (limited contact) jerseys.


Offensive lineman Chris Bassler has informed the team he is tired of football and will no longer play. WVU had given him up until yesterday to make his decision, and the 6-5, 285-pound sophomore chose to quit. He was expected to provide solid depth along the line.

Rodriguez –

On execution versus schemes: "You study enough tape, you know how people do it. That's why I say execution is the key. Schemes are way overrated. You have to have enough wrinkles and answers to how they defend you. That's why it is important for us to expand our package. And we have had enough wrinkles in there, that's why it is important for us to execute it.

On the upcoming Saturday scrimmage, which will be watched by hundred of high school and small college coaches: "I am looking forward to Saturday. We have had many situational scrimmages, but we have not had a full-blown scrimmage where the coaches don't stop them every play. This will be kind of more like a game."

On quarterback Nate Sowers: "He was a little banged up before this practice with a shoulder, but today he practiced. He is very athletic and can run and he is throwing, but I think he is still a little hindered by the sore shoulder. And he is swimming mentally, as all the freshmen quarterbacks are. They have to really try to progress in the next seven or eight practices, pick it up here and continue in the fall. Convinced is too strong of a word. But I feel optimistic and am encouraged that he can play that position. The thing with Nate is we have to make a decision as to what position can get him on the field fastest for us. He does enough things from a physical standpoint that we think he can play somewhere for us next year."

On Jeremy Bruce: "Jeremy has a lot of ability. He is a good running back that can make some moves, but he also has good ball skills. Our goal is to have him learn a couple positions before the fall."

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