Drawing conclusions from observations of one week of fall camp, or one afternoon's scrimmage, can cause the ever-dangerous rush to judgment. However, there are some indications and trends that can be taken from West Virginia's fall practice to date.
It's always something of a crapshoot in projecting depth charts or making pronouncements about an entire season based on a week's work -- I try to avoid it, and hopefully readers will too. With that caveat, here are a number of observations from Saturday's scrimmage, mixed in with some trends and other items from the first week of practice.
Eugene Smith can throw the ball. He's not ready to run the offense, and if a number two QB were needed tomorrow, it would be Bradley Starks. But Smith was very good in his stint at QB, placing the ball right on his receivers' hands throughout the afternoon. At least three of his six incompletions should have been caught. He showed good pocket presence and stepped away to avoid pressure while keeping his eyes downfield.
Conversely, Brown was off target on a handful of throws, and was not as sharp as he has been earlier this fall. That's not a worry, however - every quarterback is going to have a few outings where things aren't 100%. Odds are he will bounce back very strongly next week.
The offensive line has a lot of work to do. The running game was stifled for most of the scrimmage, with only third-teamer Jordan Roberts' early scamper providing a spark on the ground. The offensive line did at least two different sets of up-downs on the sidelines after shaky performances on the field.
Pass protection does seem to have improved, although the defense did miss at least three sacks due to defenders holding up as they approached the quarterback. Still, this is an area that has to grow every day, and that improvement process can't stop once the games begin.
Joshua Taylor continued to show his ability. He had a pair of tackles in the backfield and controlled his area well on the defensive front, and also blew up a shuffle pass play by forcing the intended receiver out of his running lane. If he continues on this path, he will ease some of the depth concerns along the defensive line.
Keith Tandy sat out the scrimmage with a bruised quadricep, but participated in drills. He was replaced by Nate Sowers, who could be the first player off the bench at both spur and bandit. Tandy was the only player, other that Ryan Spiker, who was in a green shirt, to sit out the scrimmage.
Short yardage conversions are still an issue. The offenses missed three early third and short tries, with two of those coming on inside runs. Ryan Clarke, lining up behind Ricky Kovatch in the backfield, didn't stay low or run hard enough on either of the attempts. Later in the scrimmage, however, he rumbled over a defender after turning the corner, showing that he does have the ability to get behind his pads and get yardage.
Would I be surprised to see WVU throw it a lot on third and two? No.
Play was fairly clean, with only five penalties called on the day. Three of those were false starts, while a fourth was a terrible pass interference call against Eddie Davis, who played a deep ball perfectly but was called for a ticky tack touch. The fifth was a facemask call against a defensive lineman, who coach Bill Kirelawich promptly upbraided.
The secondary did a nice job breaking on the ball and preventing completions. Boogie Allen, Kent Richardson and Terence Garvin (who I think might be the steal of the class) all broke up passes. Richardson also had a juggling one-handed interception in the corner of the end zone against Jarrett Brown.
Freshman defensive back Patrick Miller got a good deal of time with the twos. Branko Buixk had back to back plays where he tackled Tavon Austin for a loss, then chased Coley White out of bounds to force a fourth down.
Blitzing was evident on the series of plays that started in the red zone. The offense began one such set on the 25, with another set on the eight. In those situations, the defense was aggressive, with rushers coming from several different angles.