The first-year head coach had to leave practice early because of a commitment, and thus missed the Mountaineers running through the drill. Patrick White made a few plays through the air, and also escaped collapsing pockets to pick up yardage on the ground. It was, essentially, business as usual in spring with the exception of an increase in throwing the ball – and the new system of play calling installed by the staff.
"For the first time out (in pads), I thought it went well," said associate head coach Doc Holliday, who fielded questions in Stewart's stead. "It was the first two-minute drill, and I thought Pat did an excellent job of running the offense. The receivers made a couple plays there, so that was encouraging. For the first time out I thought it was good. They had a little fun. Big Thor Merrow made a guy miss on a run. One thing about these guys I noticed in the bowl game, they play hard and they sure enjoy doing it. It's fun to see. They like to compete and get after each other. I am sure it will continue to happen as we get the pads on. They are excited and like to play."
The 24-period practice on Mountaineer Field was the first of just two this week. WVU, which would normally hold three sessions per week along with the potential for a Saturday scrimmage, will also practice on Wednesday before the players are released Friday for spring break. The staff is attempting to install as much of the new terminology as it can before the break; West Virginia typically switches play calls every three years, and the influx of new coaches and the complete revamping of the secondary have coincided well with the swap.
"It's different. We are not doing a whole lot of things a whole lot different as far as the run game is involved, but throwing the ball we are," Holliday said. "These kids have heard terminology and things now for a bit, and I think you saw today they are playing faster than they had been before."
The secondary, in particular, is adjusting. It lost the vast majority of productivity, and is attempting to find two new starting corners plus a key backup, and three new safeties for WVU's 3-3-5 odd stack.
"We are switching up a lot of stuff," current starting free safety Boogie Allen said. "They are trying to make it similar for us, but we are still getting used to it. Last year, we got used to certain calls and those have switched up. It will take a few days. It's the new staff, and they say we need to switch up the calls every three years, so we switched them some. Not much has changed. We still have good corners out there. They just have to step up and lead and make plays. They are doing that, so it feels like not much has changed."
The pace, as it has been under Stewart, was fast with the work being completed in a solid fashion. The drills were eerily quiet at times, with little of the yelling or fanfare associated with last season's staff. As such, Bill Kirelawich and Jeff Casteel stand out more now than they have in the past because of their vocal style. North Carolina native and first-year receivers coach Lonnie Galloway can also be heard because of the slight southern accent. Outside of that, the practices have more of the feel of a spring baseball session.
That has been beneficial early, but certainly could change quickly if the team does not perform. Dave Lockwood and Steve Dunlap, along with Caseel, have shown patience with their new defensive backfield, which is currently starting Allen at free, Sidney Glover and Quinton Andrews at spur and bandit, respectively, and Kent Richardson and Ellis Lankster at corner. Other than their settling in and the receivers beginning to make more plays, Merrow was likely the biggest splash of the day. He has a perfect mentality for the fullback slot, but must still gain an understanding of the blocking schemes and technicalities of the position.
"He is a fun guy to coach," Holliday said. "He is like his dad (Jeff) was years ago. He likes to play the game. He is going to be a fun one to coach. Fullback, number one, that's a position that takes an extremely tough guy. We are asking him to stick his nose in there and compete and block people and things like that. He loves it. He will do whatever he can to help this team win this year."