Practice Rundown - Day IX

West Virginia held a short, fairly crisp practice session early Monday. Here's an inside look at what they did in the first hour-plus, and some key players that missed time.

The Mountaineers, in 85-degree, hazy conditions inside Mountaineer Field, began the media-accessible time with a two-on-one drill that showcased the ability to get off blocks and make tackles in closed spaces. The managers spaced cones 10 yards apart. A defensive player would face off against an offensive counterpart (DB vs. WR, LB vs. FB or TE, DL vs. OL) who was blocking for a back. The defender tried to fight off the block and make the play in the enclosed space.

WVU them moved into a three-on-two drill that utilized the levels of the defense. The linemen again matched up just in front of the back, while a linebacker played another back or tight end and the secondary faced the wideouts. The tailback was handed the ball while the other players blocked for him in the now-tighter space. The drill served multiple purposes, among them blocking, making tackles off the block, hard-nosed running, working as a unit and other major aspects, along with everything from footwork and hand placement to extending arms when blocking and getting receivers' hands off the DB, among others. That set the tone for the full-contact practice, although West Virginia, especially in its 11-on-11 session, just stood up ball carriers rather then take them to the deck.

The offense then moved to base passing with just the quarterbacks and receivers and a few backs (three-step drops, throws from the shotgun, route running, etc.), while the rest of the team worked on field goals and punts. Safeties coach Bruce Tall oversaw a blocking drill in which players attacked the punt while also keeping contact on the outside for a fake. Extending the arms and exploding through the line were addressed, and, obviously the calls for right, left, regular and roll punts were practiced. The punters later took jugs work, and the snappers plied their specific trade on the sidelines.

The defensive line's drills were more athletic than normal, with the trench players frog-jumping over practice pads on the ground, then side-stepping over them and reaching down to touch one before exploding out of the drill. They also used the blocking sled for punch drills and arm extension work from their knees, as well as a brief session of shoulder blocking, where they threw a shoulder into the first of the seven pads, then rolled past the next pad before pounding another with a shoulder blow. This continued for the entire pad, giving them four should blocks (one for each odd pad).

The offensive line drilled explosion off the ball and turning defenders where they were wanted. Line coach and assistant head coach Rick Trickett will stand behind the linemen and instruct the opposing rushers which gaps to shoot so his position players don't know how they will be attacked, including with stunts, loops and crossing blocks. Head coach Rich Rodriguez oversaw many different position drills, but mainly focused on the major team gatherings like special teams and the first drills before settling in with the quarterbacks and receivers. At one point, the sixth-year coach told the QBs not to flip their hips after getting the snap, but to do it while the ball is in the air coming to them. That detail might not seem like much, but it saves half-a-second on a pass pattern, and the signalcallers are ready to throw earlier.

The tight ends matched up against the bandits and spurs in one drill that worked pass blocking. The defenders tried to rush outside the ends, who steered them inside or simply blocked them straight up. Footwork when giving ground and hand-placement were keys, as was the ability to move the bandit or spur back inside on the rush, where the tackle can help, or where he will be bogged down in the traffic of opposing linemen, his own linebackers or other players like crossing receivers. It was a contain blitz drill for the safeties, and Ridwan Malik and Johnny Holmes looked solid, while TEs Mike Villigrana and Adam Serena more than held their own.

WVU then moved to full team work on the 14-yard line. The session was mainly running, with handoffs coming both in the shotgun and from under center. The offense also worked one drill coming out from the end zone at about the 12-yard line, where they rolled the quarterback and had a wideout drag across the field. When the linebacker (hopefully) broke on the play for the quarterback or a player that rolled with him in the backfield, the QB simply pitched the ball to the dragging wideout, which had settled in behind the now-committed linebacker. The offense finished the first hour with passing to receivers, who were challenged by secondary players.

Those still nursing injuries were John Maddux, Pat McAfee, Dorrell Jollah and Steve Slaton, among others like Mortty Ivy. David Brewer handled most of the place kicks. Jason Colson remains in the backfield for almost all of his time and was running just behind a mix of Slaton and Owen Schmitt in the one-back sets. will have a full Rod Report coming up this evening after his approximately 5:15 p.m. comments.

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