"There is a method to the madness," said head coach Bill Stewart. "We take the knee pads off to keep them up. They run through blocks. They run through tackles. It keeps them closer when they gather and hit. It's tight, close-quarters combat."
That combat came later in practice, as the team focused more on finesse than physicality in the first 45 minutes of its two-hour session.
After stretching and light positional drills were completed, the better part of the final hour was spent on "live" work, starting with a 7-on-7 skeleton passing drill.
The offense was tasked with gaining 15 yards to earn a first down and moving the ball 50 yards downfield to the end zone.
It found success on its second possession, as quarterback Jarrett Brown fired a 21-yard touchdown pass to receiver Gino Crump at the near pylon. Only two plays earlier, Brown had started the drive with a 29-yard toss to Bradley Starks down the middle of the field.
"I saw Gino Crump making more plays," Stewart said. "And I'll tell you what -- Jarrett Brown has an absolute rifle. He made some throws today that were really, really nice."
Linebacker Reed Williams anticipated where Brown would deliver the ball on the final play of the skeleton drill and leapt to get his fingertips on a pass that otherwise likely would have found an open Starks.
"I thought the skelly coming down the field was really good," Stewart said. "I was pleased about that. There were some good plays by both sides."
After the skeleton drill, the Mountaineers moved on to a live-action 11-on-11 session.
Clarke and fellow fullback Ricky Kovatch were stuffed on second and third downs from that spot, but Clarke ran in easily on fourth down.
Practice ended with the team working on its "NASCAR" field goal kicking.
Place-kicker Tyler Bitancurt's first attempt, from 35 yards away, was blocked. The kick, like many others so far this spring, was low coming off Bitancurt's foot and was easily stuffed by the blue-clad defenders.
Backup Keith Coffindaffer hit his first attempt from 35 yards out, as the ball barely stayed above the "crossbar" (a wide strip of fabric on the netting in the indoor facility). His second attempt from the same distance was tipped at the line of scrimmage and fell well short.
"We worked on (NASCAR kicking) yesterday by ourselves against air, and today we did it against the defense live," Stewart said. "I'm still not pleased with the long field goals. The ball is too low. We've got to get better on the kicking game."
As Brown lofted a pass towards receiver Wes Lyons, who was running a flag route in the skeleton drill, the high ball was batted down as it hit a net hanging from the roof of the facility.
Later, a Bitancurt field goal got caught in the same net as the kicker tried to get some air under the ball after his earlier attempt had been blocked.
"We're waiting to see the final analysis on Tyler Rader," the head coach said, referring to the backup tight end who injured a knee in Saturday's scrimmage. "That seems to be the only serious injury."
Safety Sidney Glover also continued to don a red (non-participation) jersey at practice as he recuperates from a hamstring injury.
"I'm pleased we haven't had a lot of injuries up to this point," Stewart said. "That's also because we're practicing smart. That was as hard-hitting today as any football game. I just don't want people diving at their legs."
Those will include the offense's 2-yard line (or the "minus-2" as Stewart has referred to it), the "free-wheeling zone" starting at the offense's 35-yard line, directly at the 50-yard line, and the defense's 10-yard line.
Additionally, West Virginia will practice its two-minute drill with the help of the officials who will be on hand for the scrimmage, which is set to begin at 3:45 p.m. "We're really going to have a big hitting day tomorrow," Stewart said.