Spring Practice Report - Day Four

Mike Joseph shook off any sluggishness with a series of sprints and stretches as West Virginia returned to drills Monday following spring break.

The new strength and conditioning coach opened the shirts-and-shorts session with timed 80-yard sprints and extensive stretching drills. The change came as a curve ball to the players, who gritted out the sprints with few problems to start day five of practice. The quarterbacks and wide receivers broke off after the warm-up to rep their new screen package, using a series of quick passes while offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen watched. Jarrett Brown returned after playing for basketball head coach Bob Huggins during WVU's Sweet 16 run. He had yet to practice during the spring and was moved into the third-team slot, a change that is not expected to last past this week. Still, the right-hander seemed crisp, making good mid-range throws and handling snaps and exchanges without issue.

The defensive backs, meanwhile, worked on their coverage and closing on balls against the offense in skill-only drills. David Lockwood often needed to make corrections on getting the head on the correct side of the body and the release and exchange of wideouts within the zone sets. Communication between corners and safeties was stressed, especially the break-off and release of a receiver deep. The offensive line hit pads in the end zone and the defensive line practiced getting off the ball and rushing the quarterback. The two later squared off in a pass rush and protection set as the offense attempted to protect a tackling dummy in the end zone while the defense used swim and rip moves as well as base bull rushes to get to the dummy. Skill sets are maximized in the setting, with players able to rep hand location, pad level, footwork and foot sets on offense, alignments, head location, body balance and arm extension for power transfer.

The offensive line then joined with the backs and receivers to run through plays sans defense as system tweaks continue to be taught. The emphasis was tempo and pace; receivers coach Lonnie Galloway hustled the players to the line of scrimmage while giving tips on release and getting up field after the catch. The defensive backs and linebackers, after individual reps under Lockwood, Steve Dunlap and Jeff Casteel, joined the receivers and quarterbacks in seven on seven drills. Each signal caller took turns throwing the ball with White taking the majority of the snaps. Charlie Russell sat with a minor injury. The session was highlighted by a great downfield throw by backup Bradley Starks – who continues to look good in spring drills – to receiver Kendall Washington. The wideout went up and grabbed the ball in the end zone, beating the second team defensive backfield for the score.

The practice concluded with the first team offense matched up against the starting defense. White effectively threw downfield while mixing in some keepers and gains off scrambles or broken plays. The offense stressed attacking the middle of the field on post and seam patterns behind the linebackers. Brown took snaps with both the first and second team offense as White and Starks offered insights on the offensive sets. Brown appeared comfortable as he showed a strong and accurate arm, completing a deep pass to Will Johnson. The lanky receiver made an impressive leaping catch in the end zone over two defenders, using his size and frame to secure the ball.

The practice is one of three to be held this week, the others slated for Wednesday and Friday. It is likely those will be in shells and full gear, respectively, as the Mountaineers up the intensity heading into their third week of drills.

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