Spring Practice Report - 4/7/08

Several injured players held out of this past Saturday's scrimmage returned to the practice field on Monday.

Senior offensive tackle Ryan Stanchek missed the scrimmage as well as last Friday's practice with a sore ankle, but was back in a white jersey on Monday afternoon before leaving early for an evening class.

Slot receiver Charles Matthews, who had been in a red (no participation) jersey for much of spring, returned to live action today. Matthews hopes to catch up with the likes of Brandon Hogan and Jock Sanders, who have solidified themselves as the top two players at slot on the depth chart.

Defensive lineman Scooter Berry, who has spent much of the spring in a green (limited contact) jersey as he nurses injured knees, was also full-go on Monday afternoon. Berry showed the slightest bit of rust in individual line drills, but with a year of starting experience under his belt already, Mountaineer coaches know more or less what he is capable of.

Starting nose guard Chris Neild, the lone player shaken up during Saturday's 80-play scrimmage, showed no ill effects of his injury, returning to the field without limitations and working with the first team for the entire afternoon. Neild and Berry along with JUCO transfer Larry Ford make up the first team defensive line.

Ford was impressive late in Monday's practice with his ability to create havoc in the backfield by putting pressure on quarterbacks Patrick White and Jarrett Brown. With an outstanding summer in the weight room, Ford could become even more of a factor on the defensive line heading into fall camp.

During 11-on-11 work, White showed off an improved arm, finding slot receiver Brandon Hogan for an 80-yard touchdown strike on a wheel route which opened up after the blue-clad defense almost universally bit on a play-action fake from White to running back Noel Devine. Head coach Bill Stewart raved about White's improvement as a passer during his post-practice news conference.

Stewart was also complimentary of White and Brown for their ability to hit the deep post route over the head of the linebacker but in front of the safety. Such routes have been seen in these parts over the past seven years about as often as the Loch Ness Monster visits Cheat Lake, but Stewart and offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen are hoping to rev up the passing game enough so as to not allow opposing teams to load the box against the powerful Mountaineer running game.

Brown threaded the needle on one of these throws for a touchdown pass to redshirt freshman Bradley Starks, who is repping at receiver when not working as the third quarterback. Brown put the ball on the money for Starks, who found himself open with just enough room between the linebacker, himself, and the safety.

The Mountaineers were in shells (helmets, shorts and shoulder pads) on Monday, but will don full pads again on Wednesday. Monday's workout was the ninth of 15 this spring, including the April 19 Gold-Blue game. Stewart noted after practice that the Gold-Blue game will be nothing more than a regular scrimmage this year given a lack of depth on both lines.

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