Noticeably missing from most of Wednesday's practice was senior quarterback Pat White, who pulled a muscle early in practice and spent much of the afternoon watching redshirt freshmen understudies Bradley Starks and Charlie Russell work with the first team offense. Of the two youngsters, Starks had the most impressive day, particularly executing West Virginia's trademarked quarterback runs. Twice on runs, Starks left defenders and onlookers alike looking the wrong way as he perfectly executed play fakes.
Noel Devine and Michael Poitier continued to get a bulk of the reps in the backfield with West Virginia having only a limited number of available running backs for spring drills. During inside running drills, sophomore linebacker JT Thomas stood out after laying a tough hit on Devine right as he reached the line of scrimmage. Thomas also had a nice lick on fullback Thor Merrow.
After a short rest, Bill Stewart's coaching staff put the full pads to use with one on one hitting drills. The running backs and receivers took turns taking handoffs and catching short passes from coaches and were then tested by waiting linebackers and defensive backs who practiced their tacking in the open field. The drill was deigned to simulate a goal line situation in which the ball carrier needed to beat one defender to reach the end zone.
Slot receiver Brandon Hogan showed off some superior quickness, making defenders miss on a consistent basis. Hogan also steamrolled a would-be defender on one occasion after taking a pass from slot receivers/running backs coach Chris Beatty. Thomas again showed off his physical presence jarring the ball loose twice on big hits.
During individual line drills, nose guard Chris Neild showed flashes of brilliance, bullying his way past Mountaineer offensive linemen on several occasions. Redshirt freshman defensive end Julian Miller also had an impressive bullrush on senior offensive guard John Bradshaw.
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The coaching staff from James Madison University took in WVU's practice for the second time this week. Also observing at the Caperton IPF were coaches from Osbourn High in Manassas, Va. Osbourn, you'll recall, is the alma mater of sophomore receiver Brandon Hogan
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Also taking in the action, and paying particular attention to the work being done by offensive line coach Dave Johnson and the men in the trenches, was Parkersburg (W.Va.) High star and WVU signee Josh Jenkins. Of course seeing Jenkins in Morgantown is nothing new as the two-time Hunt Award winner has made multiple trips to Morgantown over the past several seasons.
Wednesday's practice was the first chance for Jenkins to watch his future position coach and offensive line mates in action.
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That the Mountaineers worked for a few minutes at the beginning of practice on punt protection should come as no surprise. That senior punter Pat McAfee followed through by actually punting the ball indoors should.
Despite the low roof and short field inside the IPF, McAfee left nothing in the tank when uncorking his powerful leg. Punts were booming off the building's ceiling like a pinball, leaving many sideline onlookers chuckling as the pigskin went ricocheting all over the room.