Spring Practice Report - 4/14/08

As spring practice winds down, several Mountaineer players look to be warming up.

West Virginia returned to the artificial surface at Milan Puskar Stadium on Monday on the heels of Saturday's scrimmage dominated by the defense.

With overcast skies and chilly temperatures in the 40's greeting them, the Mountaineers conducted a two-hour workout in shells under the watchful eyes of their coaching staff as well as that from the Air Force Academy.

The biggest news of the day was third-string quarterback Bradley Starks trading in his gold quarterback (re: no contact) jersey for a white shirt while spending the entire afternoon working with the wide receivers. Offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen would not go so far as to say the move for Starks is permanent, but did note that as of right now, it is in the best interest of both the player and the team.

The reasoning behind the reason looks to be pretty cut and dry. West Virginia is stacked at quarterback with Heisman candidate Patrick White and reliable backup Jarrett Brown. At receiver, the picture is a little more cloudy. Starks, a redshirt freshman, holds a deadly combination of speed, smarts and athletic ability, making the tryout at wideout a logical way to get him on the field.

After hauling in a 50-yard bomb from Brown during Saturday's scrimmage, Starks again showed big-play potential on Monday, this time sprinting past the secondary and catching a 70-yard touchdown from the talented reserve.

Elsewhere on offense, another position move looks to be just as successful if not more so. Running with the first team offense for the third straight workout, fullback/tight end Will Johnson again created matchup problems when going against linebackers in team drills and seven-on-seven. Johnson, a sophomore, gives West Virginia a big body to go over the middle, but also has the speed to get upfield after the catch.

On defense, the linebackers still look to be the strength of the blue shirts. Weakside 'backer J.T. Thomas was all over the field on Monday, making life miserable for ball carriers and pass catchers alike. Thomas showed off his athletic ability by tipping and then intercepting a Pat White pass intended for Wes Lyons. Lyons looked to be open along the sideline, but when White unleashed the ball, Thomas sprinted towards the play. His momentum nearly carried him backwards, but the son of the former Mountaineer linebacker of the same name was able to regain his balance, pick off the pass, and return it to the house for a score which left the defensive sideline roaring.

Thomas broke up a pass during two-minute drills as well.

Overall, the offense looked much more comfortable and poised than it did during Saturday's scrimmage, which left head coach Bill Stewart, Mullen and the remainder of the offensive coaching staff frustrated.

NOTE: West Virginia will practice again on Wednesday afternoon in the final tuneup for Saturday's Gold-Blue game.

Indications are that there will not be an on-field autograph session following this year's spring game.

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