Scrimmage Notes

Notes, observations, ruminations and rumblings from a damp and cold Saturday at the Mountaineer football complex.

Mountaineer head coach Rich Rodriguez' displeasure at having to go indoors was evident. Had WVU not had nine junior prospects on hand, with after practice activities scheduled, my bet is that the scrimmage would have been pushed back to later in the day to wait for better weather. The effect of the indoor facility on the kicking game, as well as on plays near the sideline, is evident. Although both punts and kickoffs were "live", every kick other than the spring punts hit the roof of the Caperton Indoor Facility. To get returns in, defensive backs coach Tony Gibson, who coordinates kick returns, flipped a ball to one of the deep men for the runback. While that did allow play to continue, it certainly doesn't do much for the continuity of the play, or for helping the coverage teams locate the ball in flight and adjust their coverage angles accordingly.

That said, both Antonio Lewis and Vaughn Rivers had nice returns with the first team unit.

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Tyler Benoit's move to running back has certainly made him happier, but he still has a good way to go in order to challenge for playing time. He has been a bit slow in hitting holes, for example, and needs to improve his reads as well. The good news is that Benoit obviously has the speed and the power to be a quality back – at this point, he's still learning about being a Division 1 runner. That fact naturally makes players a bit hesitant.

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Wide receiver Jeremy Bruce is a firecracker that doesn't back down from anyone or any situation. He always seems to be involved in big hits, and Saturday's action was no exception. The diminutive receiver peeled back on a Tyler Benoit screen and leveled defensive back Vaughn Rivers with a crunching hit that echoed off the block walls of the Caperton Indoor Facility. A couple of series later, bandit Ridwan Malik got some payback for Rivers when he crushed Bruce along the sidelines on a carry. Bruce got the last laugh, however, as he got another blindside block to spring Jarrett Brown for a nice gain.

Bruce also carries on a running commentary with the defensive backs, who likewise don't back down. It's nothing ugly however – just competitors who get fired up by their play.

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A number of position and depth chart changes were made during the week leading up to this scrimmage, but there shouldn't be a great deal read into them just yet. Many of them were made to get looks at players on film with different teammates around them, and to see what they can do with first- or second-team players around them. Among the notable moves were Charles Pugh, who has been playing corner for a good bit of the spring, to bandit, and Carmen Connolly, who has been at bandit, to wide receiver. Defensive lineman Doug Slavonic got a number of first team snaps, and Sam Morrone carried the ball twice as a replacement for Owen Schmitt at fullback. Morrone had a big hole on one carry and exploited it for a first down run, and later scored a touchdown during goal line situational scrimmaging.

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The loss of linebacker Mortty Ivy to a knee injury for at least the rest of the spring is certainly not a good thing, but one small silver lining is apparent in that some backups are getting more time and performing well. Reed Williams continues to show promise as a versatile player who might be able to fill in at any of the backer spots, and third-teamer Phil Plank made his presence felt with several impressive stops and a pass breakup. Even without Ivy, West Virginia appears to have at least six linebackers (Jay Henry, Kevin McLee, Bobby Hathaway, Marc Magro, Barry Wright and Williams that are good enough to win with now, and youngsters such as Zac Cooper and Ovid Goulbourne are also showing a lot of promise.

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Again taking in practice was WVU wide receiver signee Wes Lyons. The six foot, six inch wide receiver could provide immediate help in certain situations at West Virginia this fall. Also present was Shaler Area High School's Mack Stotts, who plans to walk on at WVU this fall. A physical defensive back, Stotts attended West Virginia's football camp last year prior to his senior season at the Pittsburgh, Pa. school. Stotts will likely be mistaken for freshman running back Jetavious Best, as both are short-of-stature guys that feature long dreadlocks.


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