Gloomy Day

West Virginia announced the possibility that it suffered its first major injury of the spring after a wet outdoor practice Monday.

The Mountaineers likely lost linebacker Mortty Ivy to an ACL tear suffered in Saturday's scrimmage. Ivy was chasing reserve quarterback Jarrett Brown when his knee buckled under him without contact. The injury, eerily similar to the one Meg Bulger suffered in that no contact preceded the tear, will keep the 6-3, 230 pounder out for the rest of spring drills. WVU's doctors need to further examine the knee before it will be known if Ivy can get back by the start of fall. Head coach Rich Rodriguez said he was optimistic the sophomore could work back to nearly full strength by the start of fall practices.

"I haven't gotten confirmation yet, but it looks like he tore an ACL," Rodriguez said. "That will put him out for the spring. Hopefully we get him back for August. I don't know what the severity is, and I don't think (the doctors and trainers) will know until they go in there and do surgery. My understanding is that it will be in the next week or so. He planted it kind of funny running to the sidelines and it buckled on him."

Rodriguez also said he watched film of Saturday's scrimmage, and that the offense might have played slightly better than he had given it credit for afterward. WVU committed eight turnovers and did not score until it began drives at the 25-yard line late in the 120-minute weekend workout.

"Offensively it probably wasn't as bad in spots (as first thought)," Rodriguez said. "We did do a good job of getting out of the end zone. We got a couple first downs. Overall, I thought our quarterbacks made a lot of poor decisions. That did not help us. Our wide receiving crew was not as physical as they need to be. There are a lot of things we can improve. We were a little better today."

Yet there were still few standouts on Monday from the skill slots. The main highlight of the shorts-and-shoulder pads practice was when Jay Henry sliced through the offensive line on a blitz and knocked down a Pat White pass just as it left his hand. A few plays later, White found Brandon Myles in the end zone off a post pattern for a score. The touchdown capped a drill in which WVU tried to score from the 50-yard line with one minute on the clock. The Mountaineers had the potential for more big plays, both on offense and defense, but continued to struggle with dropped passes and interceptions. The field was wet, and thus the balls were not at their driest, but the half dozen-plus drops, one by Trippe Hale that would have gone for a touchdown, negated any offensive flow during the two-hour workout.

"I know we dropped some today," Rodriguez quipped, "but I'd think if you were one of our wideouts, you wouldn't want to drop any, because how many chances are you going to get? They did some good things, too. But we have to try to find four or five wide receivers and right now I am not sure we have that. We have the talent, but we have not gotten them to prove it yet."

Ryan Dawson and Brandon Barrett could finally help there as the receivers returned to drills after missing time because of injuries. Both could crack into the two-deep, and are much needed because West Virginia is still searching for depth at every receiver spot. It hasn't yet, for example, found any sure-fire wideouts to complement Myles and Darius Reynaud, who was limited (green jersey) because of an aggravation of his groin injury.

"If they can stay healthy they will get a few more practices to try to (prove) it," Rodriguez said of Dawson and Barrett. "This scrimmage coming up is going to be important for a lot of guys. I told the team that we really only have five practices left for guys to prove themselves."

Weather was a factor in the 24-period practice. It rained throughout the day in Morgantown, and WVU was scheduled to practice inside the IPF until it began to clear in the afternoon. After West Virginia hit the field, it again clouded up and rained for the early parts of the session before clearing later. The winds also gusted up to 35 miles per hour.

"With shorts we usually gear it a little more toward passing," Rodriguez said. "We need a lot of work on that judged by what we did Saturday. But that wind seemed to go both ways. I surely did not want to throw against it with the way we had been throwing. But it shifted all the time. I though Pat played better today, and he can play better. He just has to try and play within the framework of the offense and trust the things that we are trying to install."

The offensive and defensive lines were separated from the skill units and each other for most of the practice, but came together late for some solid physical work. The lines matched up before being inserted with the skill players for several drives at the end of practice. It was a very workmanlike outing, with the defense again gaining the upper hand. Vaughn Rivers was inserted on the first team at corner for several series while Larry Williams nursed what appeared to be a slight leg injury.

WVU also worked on punting from various alignments and formations. The punters are still trying to get a better feel for the mandated two-step approach. Scott Kozlowski hit several solid rugby punts, and there were a couple booming punts out of the normal snap-and-kick setup. Pat McAfee also worked in at punter. He missed a 47-yard field goal to finish practice, but Rodriguez noted it was because of a bad hold.

Quarterbacks Adam Bednarik and Nate Sowers remained in green (limited contact) jerseys. Linebacker Tom Contraguerro and wide receiver Darren Brownlee were also in green. Defensive end James Ingram and tight end Brad Palmer were in red (no contact) jerseys again.

Note – Rodriguez also commented on the backlog of young talent behind tailback Steve Slaton: "We know Jason Colson will serve is role. Tyler Benoit has shown us flashes even though he does not know where he is going. He has shown a burst of speed and is a physical guy. Jet Best is still running in place, like some of the freshman. Jeremy Bruce we think can do it. We have not given him many reps. Ed Collington will be there in the fall with Eddie Davis. We will have competition, but we need to give Owen Schmitt some more reps in the one-back. He has been a little nicked up. He is just sore. We are not working him as much as before.

"Sam Morrone is probably the backup. But we have guys coming in, too. That second fullback spot is wide, wide open. I can't even believe we are talking about two fullbacks. What has Own done to us? He is even breathing hard, which must mean we are using him some. He didn't realize what kind of shape he had to be in."

Rodriguez also noted that the rivalry seems to be gone when Penn State's coaches come to watch West Virginia practice: "If we were still playing them I promise you they would not be here. That was the first thing I said when I saw them, that the walls might come tumbling down. The rivalry has dissipated for sure when you have them come over and spend some time with you. It is kind of funny because I talk to Joe Paterno in the Nike Trip, we always talk ball a bit, and we talked about the evolution of football. I said ‘Now, imagine Penn State going in the spread and running the read zone.' Who would have thought of that?

"The more people do something, the more people learn how to defend it, or go against it. You have to look for creative ways to beat that. That is why I emphasize the execution of it. You have to have enough variety that you are not so simple that they can just cover everything you do. But I think we have enough variety that we are fine. That has been my disappointment this spring, the execution. Today I think our guys were sincere about correcting it."


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