Fall Practice Report: Day 1

The walls of Milan Puskar Stadium reverberated with the shriek of an air horn at exactly 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, signaling the start of the first practice of fall camp for the 2009 WVU football team.

In the first hour of practice, West Virginia players (wearing helmets and shorts but no pads) stretched and warmed up before participating in some light drills aimed at reinforcing the fundamentals to start the season.

Quarterbacks tossed lightly from one knee under the watchful eye of position coach and offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen, who repeatedly told his charges to focus moreso on proper distribution of weight on both feet and driving through the delivery with the body than actually warming up their arm.

Among those signal-callers was freshman Geno Smith, who donned a green jersey to signal his limited participation as he continues to recover from a foot injury sustained in the summer.

That didn't stop Smith from taking part in all of the offense's activities during the opening hour of practice, and the quarterback looked like he is already recovering well. He delivered most of the simple, short tosses he threw with solid accuracy and moved around with little discernible sign of discomfort.

Also back with the team after an absence was running back and slot receiver Jock Sanders, who has been reinstated at least in some capacity by head coach Bill Stewart.

Sanders spent some time fielding punts (but not returning, as that was not a part of practice to that point) and working with both the running backs and receivers depending on which drill the each position was performing.

The junior and the rest of his teammates on offense got the chance to work on a sort of simulated no-huddle offense in one of the more interesting parts of practice.

A ball was snapped to quarterback Jarrett Brown, which signaled the entire offense to head to the ground a la "up-downs" before rising and looking to the sidelines for a new formation call.

The team raced up five yards to a new line of scrimmage and got in that formation as quickly as possible and tried to move 30 yards downfield.

"The only advantage you've got in a no-huddle is your speed," Mullen bellowed as his offensive players continued the drill.

Quarterbacks and receivers also worked on quick-hitter passes, particularly receiver screens, both out of the shotgun and from under center.

On one of those plays, fullback Ryan Clarke lined up to one side of Brown, who was in the shotgun, with Noel Devine on the other side -- perhaps a sign that Clarke may be in position to make himself the team's big-bodied option as a runner and blocker.


  • While Smith and Sanders were notable participants in the afternoon practice session, defensive lineman Tevita Finau was not on the field and was not listed on a roster distributed by the WVU Sports Communications staff.

    As interviews with Stewart and players are not until 5:45 this afternoon, there is nothing additional to report on Finau's situation at this time.

    Also not seen on the field despite being on the official roster was reserve running back Zach Hulce.

  • The only player other than Smith to don a green jersey was freshman offensive lineman Ryan Spiker.

  • While there wasn't much action to observe on the field, placekickers did take a few attempts at short-range (20 yard) field goals from directly between the hashes with mixed results.

    Transfer Josh Lider hit both of his attempts, while Cameron Starke made one of his attempts and bounced the other off the left upright. Tyler Bitancurt, wearing the No. 40 of departed kicker Pat McAfee, made both of his attempts.

    Just before the official start of practice, the kickers were also working on the other side of the field from a similar distance, and Lider struggled with hooking the ball to the left.

  • Freshman running back Tavon Austin also split time in practice, working with the tailbacks on certain drills and splitting out as a slot receiver during the full-scale offensive drills.

  • Bradley Starks, who is officially listed as the Mountaineers' No. 2 quarterback behind Brown on the depth chart, spent the entirety of the first hour working with the signal-callers.

    Starks has spent most of his practice time of late at receiver, where the WVU coaching staff plans to play him. The third-year sophomore is listed as the starter at the Z receiver position on the same depth chart.

  • While Milan Puskar Stadium isn't undergoing the massive facelift it was at this time last season, work was being done around the main stadium scoreboard.

    While it is unconfirmed at this time, it appeared the workers were adding lights behind the facing of the letters that spell the stadium's name, likely allowing the letters themselves to be backlit during night games.

  • We'll have stories from interviews with both Stewart and players this evening and tomorrow morning, so keep with BlueGoldNews.com for all of the updates from the first day of fall practice.

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