Notes and observations from Saturday's practice and scrimmage, which marked the halfway point of spring drills
It is always fascinating to listen to WVU's coaches teach druing any practice session, but to see dozens of high school mentors hanging on every word reinforces that wonder. Even during a live practice, the WVU coaches take time to explain what they are doing and the results they are trying to achieve. It's great for the high school coaches in attendance, and even better for people like me who are always looking to better understand the Mountaineer offense and defense.
One of the many things worked on today by the defensive line was the difference between a power stance and a speed stance. For fear of giving away any secrets, I won't go into detail here, but the attention to the differences in each type of starting position is amazing.
Antonio Lewis, Vaughn Rivers, Darius Reynaud and Jeremy Bruce took turns catching punts during individual drills. No live punts or kickoffs were performed during the scrimmage.
The huge gap in readiness between Steve Slaton and the other running backs remains evident. Although Jetavious Best and Tyler Benoit are obviously gifted with speed, neither is anywhere close to comfortable in making the correct reads or getting his timing down. Both missed several reads and cuts that would have yielded more yardage, and Benoit's one big run on the day was due totally to a huge block by Tito Gonzales, who wiped out a linebacker and created a huge hole over the left side.
The scrimmage was a controlled affair, with the offense starting series from its own 30, its own five, midfield, and finally the defense's 25-yard line. The offense did not score on any of the first three sets of starting points, and only managed three touchdowns and two field goals in the final set. The first teams, second teams, and third teams went head to head on each of the pairings.
On six series from its own 30, the offense managed just a missed field goal from the first team on the first series. Larry Williams and Aaron Meckstroth had pics for the first and third defensive units.
On four series from its own five, the goal was a bit different, as the offense just had to get a first down to be deemd a success. The first and second team each managed one first down in two tries.
This set proved costly, as linebacker Mortty Ivy went down with an apparent knee injury on one play. Two series later, Quinton Andrews produced the first of two big hits when he levelled Dwayne Thompson and borke up a third down attempt. Thompson stayed down for several minutes before being assisted from the field.
Eleven full series ensued from midfield, but the offense could still not dent the scoreboard. Scott Kozlowski followed Pat McAfee's earlier field goal miss with one of his own, which negated a nice second-effort run from Jason Colson that put the second-teamers in scoring range. Akeem Jackson and Abraham Jones had interceptions, while Meckstroth, Andrews, Johnny Holmes and Scooter Berry all forced fumbles. The defense also recorded four sacks during the grouping.
The offense finally enjoyed some success when starting from the defense's 25-yard line, with Steve Slaton, Tyler Benoit and T. J. Mitchell scoring on TD runs. McAfee and Kozlowski also had successful field goal attempts.
The collision of the day involved Andrews and Owen Schmitt, who met like two mastodons charging for control of the tundra. The crack of pads and helmets echoed throughout the stadium and had the coaches in attendance oohing and ahhing. Andrews won the battle, as he stood his ground and toppled Schmitt.
Former Mountaineers who are now coaches in attendance included Jeff Berk, Brad Knell and Zach Dillow. WVU and NFL alum Jeff Merrow was also there to support his son Thor, who is seeing his first action this spring.
Of the 27 offensive series run, eight ended in turnovers.
Kent Richardson, who continues to improve at corner, had a bit hit on Tyler Benoit. Meckstroth also had a fumble recovery, and nearly had another interception. Meckstroth is not the fastest guy on the field, but he is a heady player who gets in the right spots.
Jeremy Bruce may be small, but he's a scrapper. He was right in the middle of several dustups (one or two after the whistle) and certianly backs down to no one.
Darius Reynaud made another tremendous catch on a third down play coming out from the end zone to pick up a first down. He and Myles continue to be the only real threats in the receiving corps.