WVU opens fall drills

West Virginia's 115th football season opened today at 2:30 p.m. with 105 players reporting for fall camp. The Mountaineers – expected to practice for 24 periods – went through a variety of team and individual drills, including a new stretching regiment.

The Mountaineers worked for about 30 minutes before head coach Rich Rodriguez brought the entire team together for a quick talk about how practice would be ran. Strength coach Mike Barwis then instructed the team about the new stretching style before the units broke for special team drills.

"We are going to practice 24 periods, and we'll run a certain number of plays," Rodriguez said. "If you practice quickly and practice the right way, it will go fast. If not, it will go long. We'll do nothing half speed here. Everything is full speed. You'll run on and off the field for skeleton drills. You'll practice hard. You'll also make mistakes; don't make the same ones twice. Let's get better."

The team broke the huddle with a quick "Get Better!" cry and, after special teams work on punts and field goals (short distance, and Pat McAfee was dead-on, while Scott Kozlowski drilled several long punts with solid hang time and also practiced the rugby and roll-out kicks), moved to individual drills. The receivers practiced getting off the ball and keeping the defensive back's hands off them. They also worked getting in and out of turns in patterns. One drill had the wideouts exploding of the ball and breaking down to switch directions. The receivers dropped low enough to scoop a softball of the ground and toss it to a student assistant before sprinting back to the line of scrimmage. The drill worked reading the center snap and reacting quickly, upfield speed, the ability to break into a pattern, keeping balance and reaccelerating. Jeremy Bruce looked especially solid and showcased his speed, and Travis McClintic also broke down well. The receivers also caught jugs (footballs fed through a machine that shoots it out at the players like a baseball batting practice machine) and practiced getting through a set of pads, running to the right of one, then to the left of the next.

The defensive backs worked zone defense and dropping off and picking up players as they came into and exited the zone. They also reacted to reading plays and bringing the safety up to help with coverage. They also practiced backpeddling and coming up to meet ballcarriers and getting in and out of turns. The offensive line worked their stance and quickly exploding on the snap and some blocking in skeleton drills.

The backs worked exchanges with the quarterbacks, who also did some general throwing and worked on play calls and sets. The defensive line practiced their first step after the snap and getting a shot on the tight end as he moved upfield. They also worked avoiding a block from the tight end and knowing how to react when the TE was lined up. They also practiced different defensive calls that have each linemen reacting differently.

WVU also ran base plays out of skeleton formations while the defense worked on their end, then Rodriguez brought the entire team together to run plays. All of this, remember, was within one hour. The Mountaineers keep practice moving quickly, and don't linger on one drill. That keeps the player interest and, while allowing for instruction, also ensures that players cover a many skills.

Linebacker Mortty Ivy, who tore his ACL during spring practice, was in a green (limited contact) jersey. His rehabilitation has went well, however, and he could be cleared by trainer Dave Kerns for full contact within one week.

Dorrell Jollah was in a red (no contact) jersey, though he was not moving with a noticeable limp. It is unknown as of now why he was delegated as such. They were the only players who were limited during the drills. All freshmen reported as expected, thought some newcomers struggled initially to grasp West Virginia's style and pace of practice and had to repeat drills.

Jason Colson took snaps out of the backfield, and worked mainly that that group. He was slated to be a slot receiver before the dismissal of Pernell Williams and Tyler Benoit. The Mountaineers have a new toy, a laptop upon which film of the last drills can be immediately downloaded to show players what they did wrong on the previous drills. It's a nice compliment to the coaches, and allowing players to see rather than simply visualize how they are practicing is a major bonus.

We'll have much more coverage today, including a Q and A session with Rodriguez and some unique thoughts and observations from practice.

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