Mundane Midweek Blues

A full-pads but half-hearted effort surmised West Virginia's tune-up drills before its Thursday scrimmage, the last prior to spring break.

Virtually the entire session was 11-on-11. WVU started with skeleton drills, practicing route running and passing with all the extras like ball security, getting vertical after the catch, defending via multiple zones, running to the ball, getting off the line, attacking passes at their highest point and other skills. The lines, meanwhile, went through their typical unit reps, then again battled head-to-head individually, with defenders trying to sack a dummy while the offense tries to protect. That covers nearly every aspect of playing along the lines within the passing game, aside from defenders getting their arms up to block passes should they be stuffed.

Scooter Berry is beginning to take strides along the line, and the usual suspects were there in Keilein Dykes and Doug Slavonic. Chris Neild seems like a natural nose guard with his head-to-toe stoutness. He has a great punch, but tends to play a bit higher with his pad level than defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich would like. The offensive line plays appears solid, but with multiple starters out, it is more difficult to judge.

When those two drills were done, the team moved to a full-contact, 11-on-11 session for the final 10-plus periods, or more than 50 minutes. The drill started with the ball being placed at the 20 with the offense moving outward, toward the open 80 yards. The first and second teams got locked down by the defense on the first four possessions (two each), getting nary a first down. Pat White was sacked on the first snap by the entire defensive line and the offensive protection totally broke down. Part of that could be play selection or the way the coaching staff sets up the offense versus the defense or vice versa. Often, during spring practice, match-ups or seeing how teams react to certain formations or fronts became paramount to simply trying to move or stop the ball or "win" the scrimmage.

Wes Lyons did do a solid job of getting vertical after catching passes and not dancing to stay at one yard line, or move backward. That highlight segued into the situational scrimmage, when WVU placed the ball at the 40-yard line, going the 60 yards into the end zone, with 45 seconds on the clock. The offense was given one timeout, and the defense appeared to have a stop on fourth and long in the first series, between the ones. White scrambled left and tossed a 40-plus yard throw into the end zone, where Nate Sowers matched up against Antonio Lewis. Both jumped for the ball as it spiraled down while crossing the goal line. Sowers grabbed it and tucked it away just as free safety Chuck Pugh tried to come over the top late. Offense, 7-0.

The second team also scored on its first possession, with quarterback Jarrett Brown finding the tight end down the seam for the touchdown. He got great protection and stepped hard into the rifle throw. The toss came from 20-plus yards out. On the next series, White gained a first down on third and long, and, with 6.5 seconds left, the offense spiked the ball and settled for a 38-yard field goal from Pat McAfee. But overall, the defense got the best of the action today, intercepting three passes and gaining stops on the majority of snaps and series.


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