The Mountaineer offense was missing some key personnel for most of the day, particularly at the wide receiver position. Senior receiver Brandon Myles was attending a wedding, and fellow receiver Darius Reynaud sat out with a pulled groin. Their absence provided an opportunity for some of the other receivers to show what they could do. Former two-time Kennedy Award winner Brandon Barrett had several impressive catches, and looks poised to contribute to the offense this fall. (Note: We'll have an interview with Brandon up later today.)
Also turning in some nice plays at receiver were Tito Gonzales, and Jeremy Bruce. Gonzales had a nice catch on a swing pass, and thanks to a beautiful block from center Mike Dent was able to reverse his field and pick up about 25 yards before being shoved out of bounds. Bruce, who has been splitting time between running back and slot receiver this spring, made his mark with downfield blocking on Saturday. He delivered two crushing crackback blocks. The first came on a swing pass to Tyler Benoit, while the second sprung a long scramble by quarterback Jarrett Brown. It was undoubtedly a welcomed change of pace for Bruce, who has been on the wrong end of several big hits this spring.
Other notable plays by the offense on Saturday were a handful of nice runs by Benoit, and a diving catch by walk-on receiver Cody Clay from South Charleston.
On the injury front, receiver Ryan Dawson was back in a red jersey (no practice) after injuring his left knee during Friday's practice. Head coach Rich Rodriguez initially described Dawson's injury as a sprain, but indicated that further testing could be on the horizon when swelling in the knee subsides. Rodriguez also said that regardless of the extent of the injury, Dawson's spring is likely over. Freshman offensive lineman John Walko went down with a sprained knee late in Saturday's scrimmage, but was up walking around by the end of practice. Owen Schmitt left within the first 10 plays of the workout after taking a helmet to his thigh. Rodriguez said that his junior fullback/cult-hero would have been able to return to action had it been an actual game.
In addition to the absences of Myles, Reynaud, and Schmitt, the first team offense was without sophomore running back Steve Slaton for most of the day. The coaching staff is making an effort to limit Slaton's reps as the spring winds down to prevent injury to the sophomore speedster.
With so many key offensive players sitting out or limited, the defense again held the upper hand for much of the day. The only touchdowns scored by the offense came during goalline drills at the end of practice. For most of the scrimmage, the only score belonged to the defense courtesy of an interception return by Eric "Pick Six" Wicks. (Is it just me, or is that nickname long overdue?)
Junior defensive end Keilen Dykes sat out his second straight practice with a foot injury, and was replaced on the first-team line by sophomore Doug Slavonic. The former Mt. Lebanon standout showed a great motor, and looked comfortable running with the starters for most of the morning.
The second-team defense was tenacious in getting after quarterbacks Brown and Nate Sowers. Sophomore linebacker Reed Williams had one play where he came into the backfield unblocked and stuffed Brown seemingly as soon as he received the snap from center.
In a spring that has been seemingly dominated by the men in blue jerseys, Saturday was certainly no different.