Rainy Coaches Day Marks End of Week Drills

West Virginia had a record-setting turnout for its Coaches Day as spring practice was struck by the unpredictable Mountain State weather Friday.

The Mountaineers played host to 835 coaches, nearly double what had been their previous high of 440. That was working well until 45 minutes into WVU's seventh spring practice, when a sudden downpour caused all drills to be moved indoors – which was fine, except that 835 soggy clip boards and soaked coaches also staggered in, limited any out-of-bounds area that would have been available.

The other problem was that 600 chairs had been setup in the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility for the morning coaches' clinic, and there was a projection screen mounted onto a divider hanging from the ceiling. Players cleared the folding chairs from the surface, but the screen was left down, forcing WVU to further adapt. It put its lines on one side to work and its skill players on the other side of midfield.

The only drills WVU could not do were those involving punting, and even then it put on a solid rush, then had an assistant toss a ball high into the air for the return man, mimicking a punt and giving the player the normal amount of time to field it and face the oncoming coverage. The Mountaineers finally brought the non-full contact session to an end with full 11-on-11 work in half the field.

The new turf also cut down on time – and presumably stress for equipment manager Dan Nehlen, as players did not need to change their shoes when going from the Mountaineer Field surface into the IPF due to the new installation of the same turf indoors. It is also a safer surface.

"It rained right halfway, which was, eh, not good," West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "The good part if we did not have to change shoes when we can in here. We had to adapt a little bit, but that's the spring-time weather in the state of West Virginia. You start off 75 and sunny and end at 55 and thunderstorms in a space of about 15 minutes."

Included in 835 coaches, from both high schools and small colleges, were more than 200 walk-ins, forcing WVU to scramble to boost meal counts. Staffs from as far away as Texas came to watch West Virginia's drills and take part in individual sessions with WVU assistants. Cars packed the Puskar Center lot and even spilled over into the grass area adjacent to the parking lots. Following this afternoon's drills, the high school coaches were to have a dinner session and then a reception afterward.

"You win one bowl game and they all show up," WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "The first year we had it there might have been 130. In fact, they thought about not having the coaching clinic before that. Now there is 835. I think it is great. There are a lot of guys from in-state, a lot of guys from border states. We got coaches here from Texas, Florida, Alabama. We try to do all we can to pass on some information. "And I think it is neat that they come and see what we have in our program and our abilities – we do some unique things – and spend some time talking ball. We are very open about that. We obviously are not going to meet with competitors about anything, but the high school coaches are obviously awful good to our program. They help us with recruiting and it is good for us to give a little back to them."

West Virginia didn't tone many things down anymore than the rain caused it to. It went full go, though not with contact, for much of the session, working everything from defensive back hand position and initial chuck off the line to tight end footwork and what steps to take when getting off the ball.

The tight ends also go blocking instruction (sliding their feet to make the defensive ends work upfield and don't get an unimpeded release even on a passing play) for the second consecutive practice from position coach and recruiting coordinator Herb Hand. They were directly in back of the quarterbacks and receivers, who did everything from fade routes to faking a handoff and rolling out to looking off a defensive back and finding the receiver on the other side of the field – all in 10 minutes. They also completed a quick-snap drill where the quarterback gets the ball and releases it immediately to one of four receivers, then is hiked another ball and repeats the drill four times in less five seconds. That was the last set of individual drills completed before the rain came, forcing the units inside where they did base skelton drills and full team work against the defense for the rest of practice.

The offensive line worked on pushing the defense (fellow O-linemen) downfield and locking the outside arm, depending upon the side to which the ball is ran, so that the opposition could not get back upfield. Coach Rick Trickett stood behind the line and directed other lineman how to attack his front so that they did not know what was coming, forcing them to adjust on the run.

The running backs also worked hitting the holes and the proper footwork when changing direction. WVU again brought out the balls with the netting on them, which make the surface more slick and force ball carriers to control the pigskin better. The defensive backs worked bump and run coverage and hand placement and not getting too wide a base so they could change direction.

On special teams, snapper Tim Lindsey tutored the other snappers, while the kickers went outside to work after the rain stopped, a change in that they usually practice smaller drills inside when the rest of the team is outside.

Individual standouts included Antonio Lewis, who had an interception, Pat White, who lofted a nice touch pass over Abraham Jones to Barndon Myles for a touchdown, and John Holmes and Mortty Ivy. Both dropped interceptions, but seemed to flow to the ball well and read the plays nicely.

Also taking in the action were former WVU offensive linemen and current high school assistants Brad Knell and Jeff Berk. Jahmile Addae was again there, along with WVU recruits Charlie Russell and Wes Lyons. Lyons' parents were also present.

The injury front remained largely the same with Brandon Barrett, Brad Palmer and Jason Karns in red (no contact) jerseys along with Rayshawn Bolden, who will miss the entire spring with a broken foot. Marcus Law, Darren Brownlee and Adam Bednarik again wore green (limited contact) jerseys, while Darius Reynaud, who pulled a groin Wednesday, was at full go.

"It was pretty good work," Rodriguez said. "But I am anxious to see a scrimmage."

West Virginia will hold its second scrimmage of spring drills Saturday. The Blue and Gold News will have a preview article shortly and full coverage of the event.


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