WVU Spring Practice Report: Day Eight

While the skies were blue and the sun was out above Milan Puskar Stadium, it was anything but a pretty day for the West Virginia football team's offense during the team's first scrimmage of the spring.

The first-team defense dominated Saturday afternoon's session, which marked the mid-point of the Mountaineers' four-week spring practice period.

Leading the swarm of blue-clad defenders was linebacker J.T. Thomas, who recorded four sacks, one other tackle for loss and an interception.

That interception came as quarterback Jarrett Brown rolled right and looked to lob a ball about 10 yards downfield against tight coverage. Thomas was waiting and made a play on the ball to secure the turnover.

"I just locked onto the receiver that was running in my zone, and Jarrett tried to make a play out of nothing," Thomas said, chuckling. "I kind of lucked into that interception."

While the sack category can be a bit misleading in scrimmages (as referees are instructed to blow the play dead when anyone is able to lay a hand on the quarterback) Thomas was a fixture in the backfield, causing havoc for Brown.

Brown finished only 3-of-13 passing.

"Jarrett wasn't as sharp throwing today," said West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart. "But I don't think his protection was good."

Indeed, the Mountaineer offensive line struggled to pick up blocks on Thomas and other blitzing linebackers. Stewart and his staff were so displeased with the unit that each starting lineman was instructed to run the stadium steps after practice.

The offensive line's bad day only made Brown's worse. His lone highlight throwing came on a play near the end of practice where the senior avoided pressure near the defense's goal line and lofted a 3-yard touchdown pass to Noel Devine.

Devine was perhaps the sole standout offensively. The junior gained 97 yards rushing on only six attempts, including a 65-yard scoring scamper early in the scrimmage.

"The defense slowed down a little bit because they may have thought I was tired," Devine said of his long run. "I think Reed could have made the tackle, but after that I just made everybody miss. (In a real game) I think that would have been a tackle by Reed Williams. "

The Ft. Myers, Fla., native also had a 15-yard touchdown run wiped off the board by a holding penalty. On the next play, Devine made his lone mistake mistake of the scrimmage, fumbling away a ball that would be recovered by Larry Ford.

As the Mountaineers later worked on red zone offense, fullback Ryan Clarke carried the ball on 10 of 11 plays by the first team offense.

Clarke responded with three touchdowns, which came on runs of five, one and four yards. The big-bodied runner may see carries in short-yardage situations this season after West Virginia struggled in that area a year ago.

"He's doing great," Devine said of Clarke. "He's just got to get his pads lower down and he'll be able to run a lot more people than he's running through, but he's doing good."


  • In pre-scrimmage workouts, punter Scott Kozlowski was impressive. The senior booted multiple kicks that traveled around 50 yards in the air from his own end zone.

    Place-kicking continues to be a cause for concern, however.

    Keith Coffindaffer made a 27-yard field goal in the only kick of the scrimmage. Presumptive starter Tyler Bitancurt did not see the field.

    "Our kicking, field goal wise, is not good," Stewart said. "I'm not pleased with that."

  • The team's next scrimmage, which comes on Wednesday afternoon, will follow a similar format to the highly-scripted style of Saturday's workout.

    Both the first and second team offense and defenses will alternate drives, taking possession of the ball at the offense's 35-yard line, the 50-yard line, the offense's own 2-yard line, the defense's 35-yard line, and the defense's 10-yard line.

  • West Virginia will have Sunday off before returning to the field early Monday morning.

    Practice on that day has been moved up to 6 a.m. to accommodate players with class conflicts. For the same reason, Tuesday's session will also begin at 6 a.m.

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