Fall Practice Report: Day 5

For the first time this fall, the WVU football team's pads were popping early in practice on Wednesday afternoon.

While the team stretched and had normal positional warm-ups to start the fifth session of the fall, the real action began when the Mountaineers broke into three areas for the "W" or "Oklahoma" drill.

The intense, physical drill forces one ballcarrier to stay within a relatively narrow array of cones laid out in an expanding "V" shape.

In front of him, an offensive lineman and defensive lineman face off in a one-on-one showdown -- the defender trying to get off his block and tackle the runner.

If the initial blocker is successful, the runner reaches the second level, where a linebacker and tight end or fullback match up with each other. Finally, a safety is waiting at the end to pounce on anyone who gets around the linebacker.

The tight quarters created by the cones assures an abundance of hitting in the drill, which is what the West Virginia coaches hope to see when they utilize it -- which comes in most every session in full pads.

Defensive linemen Jorge Wright and Chris Neild made nice moves to get off their blocks to tackle ball-carriers early in the drill, both drawing the vocal praise of the notoriously tough-to-please Bill Kirelawich.

Linebacker Reed Williams later had a textbook takedown of running back Jordan Roberts -- the hit was in itself was not spectacular, but Williams exhibited perfect balance and foot placement while driving through the body of the opposing runner.

The drill quickly exposed the difference in development between younger and older players at the key positions. True freshman offensive lineman Cole Bowers drew the ire of position coach Dave Johnson for not breaking out of his stance quickly enough and had to repeat the drill on a few occasions.

After around 10 minutes of the Oklahoma drill (which came around a half-hour into the 60 minute portion of practice open to the media), the team went back to work on special teams in both the punting and kicking games.

Greg Pugnetti again punted the ball with considerable distance, booming a ball as far as 58 yards through the air. Scott Kozlowski was also solid in his work at punter, and both had plenty of hang time on their kicks.

Field goal kicking was perhaps better Wednesday than it had been on any day previously in fall camp.

Tyler Bitancurt was a perfect 5-of-5 in "live" field goal kicking (against a rush), hitting from 20, 41, 45 and twice from 36 yards away.

Josh Lider converted on four of his five attempts, pushing a 47-yarder from the right hash mark wide to the left. He made kicks of 20, 25, 28 and 40 yards.

Cameron Starke had only one attempt in the period, perhaps signaling that he has fallen behind in the competition to be the starting place-kicker.

NOTES:

  • After the special teams work, WVU players went back into positional drills.

    In one area where quarterbacks Jarrett Brown, Eugene Smith and Coley White were simultaneously throwing out of one "backfield" to three different receivers, Smith looked impressively accurate with his tosses.

    While all the media has seen of the true freshman has come with him throwing "against air" (without a defense rushing him), Smith appears to have all the tools physically and throws a very catchable ball with good mechanics.

  • That being said, Smith continued to be one of the only two players limited at all in practice, as offensive lineman and fellow true freshman Ryan Spiker also donned a green jersey.

    Spiker continued to spend much of practice riding on a stationary bike, working on his conditioning.

  • In the same passing drill, receivers coach Lonnie Galloway worked with his charges on some of the finer points of route running.

    The second-year position coach schooled the pass-catchers on using a long stride or a choppy step at the correct time in a route and where it makes sense to run straight downfield after breaking from the route.

    Galloway told the receivers that after cutting upfield, they should never be further outside than the bottom of the yard numbers on the Mountaineer Field turf, as to allow the quarterback to throw over their shoulder and towards the sidelines if need be.

  • Head coach Bill Stewart is scheduled to meet with the media at 5:45 p.m. and interviews with the West Virginia players are scheduled to follow.

    Check back tonight for more on today's practice from Stewart's perspective and a story by Taylor Jones on one of the Mountaineers.


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