Spring Has Sprung

West Virginia's football team - just two months removed from its second straight bowl victory - opened up spring practice on Monday afternoon.

With the weather outside being a cold reminder that it is indeed still winter, head coach Rich Rodriguez elected to move the first workout to the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility. The move was made easier by the fact that the Mountaineers did not practice in full pads Monday, and will not do so until the end of the week.

Several notable observers were on hand to watch West Virginia's workout. Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was in attendance with members of his family, including younger brother Gino. The younger Gradkowski was a standout offensive lineman at Pittsburgh's Seton LaSalle High School, and signed a letter of intent with West Virginia last month. During practice, Gino spent much of his time watching his future linemates under the direction of new O-Line coach Greg Frey. Coach Frey, who along with new quarterbacks coach Rod Smith came to West Virginia from Big East rival South Florida, provided a contrasting coaching style to that of former offensive line coach Rick Trickett, now at Florida State.

Another member of the 2007 signing class, Morgantown (W.Va.) quarterback Charlie Russell, was taking in the day's events at the IPF. Russell watched quarterbacks Patrick White and Jarrett Brown go through passing drills. Adam Bednarik, who missed last season due to a shoulder injury, threw some on Monday but wore a green (limited contact/limited participation) practice jersey. Rodriguez noted that Bednarik (who left practice early to attend a class) will wear the green jersey all spring.

Other injured players walking around in green were All-American tailback Steve Slaton (wrist) and wide receiver Darren Brownlee (wrist). Players in red (no contact/no participation) included: offensive lineman Frank Carduff (knee); linebacker Marc Magro (knee); wide receiver John Allevato (knee); offensive lineman Jake Miller.

With Magro out, the first string linebacking corps consisted of junior Reed Williams in the middle, flanked by junior Johnny Holmes and redshirt freshman J.T. Thomas. The secondary in team passing drills was comprised of Antonio Lewis and Vaughn Rivers at cornerback; Charles Pugh and Eric Wicks at spur/bandit; and Quinton Andrews at free safety. Redshirt freshman Greg Davis looked to be in great shape, and participated some as a spur/bandit. Andrews recorded the play of the day with a one-handed interception.

The Mountaineers did have a few minutes of "good on good" team passing drills which pitted the first team offense against the first team defense. Wide receivers on the first team offense included sophomore Wes Lyons, junior Tito Gonzales, and senior Darius Reynaud. With new receivers coach Tony Dews having only been on the job for less than a week, Rodriguez spent much of practice working individually with the wideouts.

Before practice began, Rodriguez challenged his team to go all out for the next 15 practices. "Play like you've always got something to prove," said the seventh-year head coach.

West Virginia will practice again on Wednesday. Rodriguez noted that he will likely not cancel any practices this week no matter what the weather does.


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