Red Zone Rev-up And Rundown

A spirited last-ditch drive effort highlighted the start of the second week of spring practice Monday as West Virginia drilled in full pads inside Mountaineer Field.

After its normal individual unit work and focus on special teams and group skeleton play, West Virginia put it all together late in the practice, placing the ball at the 18-yard line and giving the offense 30 seconds – with no timeouts – in which to score. It put the defense's proverbial back to the wall and allowed WVU's offensive weapons to shine.

Only, there weren't that many. Wideouts John Maddox, Wes Lyons (groin), Dorrell Jollah and Darren Brownlee (wrist) were all out, and tailback Steve Slaton continues to be removed from all full contact sessions. That left Darius Reynaud, Nate Sowers and Tito Gonzales as the ones, often with Carmen Connolly. Ed Collington was the tailback, with Eddie Davis repping with the second team.

In the opening drive, matching ones vs. ones, quarterback Patrick White hit Sowers with a solid pass down the visiting sideline for 11 yards to the seven before Collington got stuffed in the backfield on first and goal on a fake belly option pitch outside. WVU spiked the ball with 1.6 seconds left, and settled for a tie with a 25-yard Pat McAfee field goal. The twos then got a chance, with Jarrett Brown finding Connolly along the sideline for 16 yards to move the ball to the two. Brown kept around left end for a score on the next play, giving the offense the win. The third team offensive could get the ball to the nine-yard line, but was stood up there in a mass pileup, and the defense took awhile to get up as time ticked away. A spike with 1.7 seconds left led only to an incomplete pass into the end zone as time expired.

West Virginia started what appeared to be a back-to-basics day with skeleton pass drills, the offensive skill players matching up to the defense as the two lines worked as individual units away from the finesse action. The trainers set up a series of garbage cans with tackling dummies in them to represent the line. That forced the quarterbacks to work to better find and see receivers and it also made them throw over the dummies, simulating the height of an actual collegiate line. The units seemed even on this play, with the offense utilizing many swing passes and throws to the flats with some vertical work down the seams. Reynaud moved inside and out, being used in the slot and to go deep when needed.

The offensive line, meanwhile, practiced coming off the snap into a pass set, then exploding into defenders and finishing plays, if possible, by pancaking a dummy into the ground. Shoulder and head location and angle were maximized here, as were the myriad of footwork and body and hip location used when a lineman sets for pass protection. This pass look that turned into attacking the defender will be used in such situations and the quarterback draw, or a delay to the tailback. The defensive line was working spin moves and other non-bull rush moves to get pocket penetration. The coaches preached low pad location and drive, and enough control within the attack that defenders did not roll too far out to run past a quarterback, or force the pocket to completely collapse, creating great running lanes. Outside contain was a must, and that was a bit of a change from Friday's drills, when the lines on both sides work on protection and pressure within the interior of the pocket. Greg Frey had to instruct his charges not to throw a lineman that might have a better angle, because doing so might throw them into the quarterback, causing a sack at best and a major injury at worst. The first-year coach told the defensive line that, if they were being thrown, not to resist and, indeed, use the extra push as an advantage.

The offensive line's next challenge were a series of one-on-one plays that pitted first and second team members against each other in a rush. After that, the defensive line again challenged the offensive before the entire units on both sides came together for some inside running practice. Davis delivered a huge blow to the defense from his second-team tailback slot, leveling a player near the sideline, then steaming ahead to gain a few more yards. Reserve quarterback Markell Harrison also made a shifty cut, loosing a defender on the outside on a keeper play.

Punt and punt return were also drilled for a bit, using the now typical spread line formation with three up men for protection and at times calling for the rugby punt. Return men caught the ball, but did not advance it like last time, usually because the rugby punts were near the out of bounds line. In all, it was a short, crisp session with which head coach Rich Rodriguez said he was pleased.

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