Will the real Mountaineer offense please stand up?
After Friday's workout, coaches and players alike were encouraged by the performance of the offense. Less than a day later, however, that same unit which performed so well on Friday sputtered for much of Saturday morning's scrimmage.
So, which is the real Mountaineer offense? The answer likely lies somewhere in the middle.
"I learned a long time ago that it's never as good as it seems," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jeff Mullen explained on Saturday. "(Friday), we had a really good day in practice, a really good day. Then I looked at the tape and there were a lot of mistakes.
"(Saturday) feels really bad, and I know there are a lot of mistakes, but we just have to coach them better," he continued. "We did not like what happened out there today, and we will get it fixed."
Many of the errors which plagued Saturday's 90-minute session were the types of things that leave Mullen and virtually anyone else who has ever coached football pulling the hairs from their heads. Penalties, turnovers and the like are enough to raise the blood pressure of sideline mentors no matter what time of year it is, and Saturday was certainly no different for Mullen.
"The things that are frustrating are the turnovers," he said. "They're just unacceptable and that was something we got corrected out there."
Ahh, but here's the catch: part of Saturday's woes, at least indirectly, were by design, says Mullen, who came to WVU after a stint at Wake Forest as quarterbacks coach. Instead of installing the entire offense at one time, West Virginia's coaching staff opted to do so in pieces.
"We put about 80 percent of the offense in during the first week, and we came back in week two and didn't put anything in," Mullen explained. "We had a little bit of success last Saturday (during a similar scrimmage), and looked a little cleaner.
"This week, we put the last 20 percent of the offense in, and their heads are spinning a little bit," he continued. "Of course, we've got to do a better job of coaching them, but I saw it coming a little bit this week. They were going to have to think a little bit for this game. We'll go back next week, review it all, and hopefully come out (in the Gold-Blue game) and look a little better."
Issues such as motion penalties and false stars will continue to be ironed out as the coaches continue to tinker with the pre-snap routine of Patrick White and the other quarterbacks.
Mullen noted that the signal cadence barked out by the quarterbacks has been the same for years, and as that is changed, growing pains such as the aforementioned penalties are going to happen. So long as they happen now and not in the fall, things will be fine. After all, the ball isn't put in play for real until August 30.
"Its spring ball, and you're trying to work on things that need work and evaluate it at the end for next fall," Mullen said. "We'll just have to keep working at it to see if we can handle it."
NOTE: With the passing game expected to be more a part of the offense this fall, Mullen is looking for a big-play threat to stretch the field. The latest candidate to emerge for filling that vacancy is third-string quarterback Bradley Starks. The redshirt freshman turned in West Virginia's most productive offensive play on Saturday, sprinting past the secondary to haul in a 50-yard touchdown bomb from Jarrett Brown.
While Starks has shown promise in his limited time at receiver this spring, it goes without saying that Mullen is hoping for several more players to emerge as threats in the vertical passing game.
"We're just going to keep working them all right now," he said. "We've got to find that guy, but I don't think that I can put that tag on anybody right now. We have a lot of people with an opportunity to be that guy.
"I think Wes (Lyons) has the length. I think Bradley Starks has the speed. I think Alric Arnett has an opportunity to be a great player for us in our offense. There are a number of players who have a chance. We just have to go through this spring, evaluate them at the end, and put them in the position next fall."