The Mountaineers' 12th practice of the spring was the first of their final week of drills before the annual Gold-Blue game this Saturday. It was yet another early Tuesday session, as the session began at 6 a.m. due to class conflicts among players.
"I'll tell you one thing I like about these early morning practices -- the players are awake and alert and really bouncing around pretty good," said Mullen, the WVU offensive coordinator.
"I thought we hit the defense in the mouth pretty good and I thought the defense hit us in the mouth at times, but that's spring football. Overall, I thought it was a pretty good practice."
The session was conducted in "shells" (helmets, light shoulder pads and shorts), which can limit the ability of the defense to make plays due to the slower speed it must play at.
"It's tough when you're in shells," Mullen said. "The defense can't tackle you, so some of those two-hand touch plays that look really good might not have been so good on game day.
"Every day, there's good and bad. You can't really look at it until you get to the tape and really evaluate it, but I was really happy with some young kids making plays this morning, which was fun to see."
While the use of shells may make it tougher for coaches to tell what truly would have been a big play and what wouldn't have, the WVU coaching staff believes that is worth the decreasing the risk of significant injury among players as the spring winds down.
"What we're hoping to finish with is health," Mullen said. "Sometimes you have some kids running around that aren't quite sure (what they're doing), and that's when you can get injuries. So our top priority is just to stay healthy and continue to improve."
To that end, the Mountaineer defense regained one of its better players, as safety Sidney Glover returned to full activity by donning a blue shirt.
"He's been out really for the entire spring, so it was good to get him back," said WVU defensive coordinator Casteel. "He was a little rusty, but it was good to see him running around a bit."
While Glover had Stewart citing the story of former New York Yankees player Wally Pipp in recent weeks, saying the safety needed to get back on the field before he lost his job, Casteel said caution ruled the day when it came to evaluating the junior's hamstring injury.
"The thing with a hamstring is, sometimes those things are tough," Casteel said. "We wanted to make sure that healed up so it didn't hinder him when he gets into running in the summer, but he should be okay."
While injuries are never a good thing for a coach, Glover's time off helped other players get more reps in the secondary. Casteel said that even this late in the spring, getting a look at every player is a priority for the coaching staff.
"We're just at the point where we're trying to get as many guys as we can take a look at some reps," Casteel said. "We're still evaluating players. We don't read too much into who is in with the first group or the second. We're just trying to get guys reps and make sure they know what they're doing."
That process of teaching the basics of the odd-stack defense employed by West Virginia will continue even in the final few practices of spring drills.
"We're still looking at some things in our base package right now," Casteel said. "These are things we're trying to see where we're at right now and give the kids more to think about and see if they can execute it. We've been fairly slow this spring in terms of our installation so they can get a better grasp of things.
"We're happy with where we're at, but we still did a little installation today."
The work done by the players in the final 6 a.m. practice of the spring pleased the seventh-year defensive coordinator.
"The kids did a nice job," Casteel said. "It takes them a while to get their blood flowing at six in the morning. But once they get that going, they do a nice job."