Camp Scene

Scrimmage thoughts? Check. Camp Recap? Check? Projections? Check. All that and more in the latest edition of The KinderGarden.

There was a lot to see and digest from West Virginia's camp-ending Saturday scrimmage, so let's get right to it. First, although he wasn't quite as solid as he was last Saturday, there's no question that quarterback Geno Smith has all the tools necessary to be a college quarterback. Smith got off to a rough start when he was picked by Anthony Leonard on his first play from scrimmage, as Smith scraped under Tavon Austin to snare his opening pass attempt. He then suffered a sack on his second snap, and it appeared as if he were headed for a rough day. However, he bounced back nicely, completing seven of 12 passes for 75 yards and running the offense with a coolness that belied his true freshman status. The way in which he moved on, seemingly unruffled, from the bad start was perhaps his most impressive achievement of the day. And Smith could have had about 130 yards, but a long pass, which hit receive J.D. Woods in stride, was dropped by the redshirt freshman. That missed connection spurred frustration from receivers coach Lonnie Galloway, who was apparently upset at what he perceived as a lack of concentration by Woods.

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On thing the offense can't afford to do is make mistakes, such as commit penalties or take sacks. While it does have some players that can make big plays, it doesn't look as if it will excel at ripping off big chunks of yardage at a time. It does appear capable of moving the ball down the field and building drives, but in order to do that it can't shoot itself in the foot. It can't drop passes or make mental mistakes. It will have to be efficient in order to win.

To go along with that, there were nine penalties called in the 90-something play scrimmage. That's a whistle every ten plays, which is far too many for this team to bear. Granted, both teams on the field were WVU's, which doubles the chances for a flag on any given play, but some of the gaffes, including some holds, lining up offside and a facemask, drew the ire of Stewart and various assistant coaches.

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On facet in which the offense has performed well is in "coming out" – snaps from inside its own five-yard line. Both the first and second teams, starting possessions at its own one, converted two first downs to move out of the danger zone. West Virginia appears very willing to throw the ball in these situations, as Wes Lyons, Jock Sanders, Logan Heastie and Tavon Austin all caught passes for first downs.

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The hit of the afternoon came when Marc Rodgers bowled over Nate Sowers, who is no small hitter himself, at the end of the run. The crack of pads echoed throughout the stadium and drew oohs from the parents and media in attendance.

Freshman Terence Garvin continued to stand out in this area as well. If there's contact, count on seeing #28 in the immediate vicinity. He'll probably redshirt, but he is a guy to watch for in the future. I picked him as WVU's steal of the class in evaluations for College Football News earlier this year, and I'm standing by that selection.

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The offensive line looked better, although there is still clearly improvement to be made. Head coach Bill Stewart indicated that the competition, as well as potential adjustments, aren't over just because camp has concluded. While that might sound like coachspeak, it certainly doesn't seem like it, at least in this case. We'll have more on that in a future article.

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On the injury front, things could be a heck of a lot worse. Sidney Glover again sat out the scrimmage to protect a neck problem, although Stewart said he would have played had there been a real game. There's no doubt that he has been shielded during camp. Jeff Braun suffered a jammed neck during V drills, and had an ice bag on his neck for the remainder of the afternoon. However, for the most part, West Virginia looks pretty healthy, which will be another of many keys for a successful season.

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Of the players participating with the "threes", Branko Busick and Will Clarke stood out. Busick had a couple of nice run stuffs where he filled the hole and made crisp tackles, while Clarke made several appearances in the offense's backfield. Shawne Alston, who played with all three offensive units, displayed some nimble footwork on a couple of carries, showing that he's not a one-dimensional back.

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Two different receivers received a tour of the stadium steps for transgressions – one appeared to be for talking back to officials. Those that think head coach Bill Stewart isn't a disciplinarian, or that he isn't involved in the moment-to-moment coaching of the team, might have been surprised to see that. Regular onlookers of practice, however, aren't.

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The play of the day came on Eain Smith's interception, which was touched by three other players before Smith came up with it. The initial pass went through a receiver's hands, was tipped by Logan Heastie, then kicked by defensive back Eddie Davis, who was on the ground. It rebounded to Smith for the defense's second pick of the afternoon.

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While it's too early to predict redshirt avoidance, true freshman Cole Bowers got a good deal of time with the second team at tackle. He has been receiving more runs with that unit during the past week of practice.

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Two blocks of the six field goals attempted don't leave anyone with a warm or fuzzy feeling. Tyler Bitancurt appears to hold a slight lead in the competition, but a dual-kicker scenario still can't be ruled out. Josh Lider and Bitancurt each had kicks tipped, and although both continued on beyond the line of scrimmage, neither had a chance of making it to the uprights. Each also missed another attempt, giving WVU a 2-6 slate during live scrimmage action.

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In prescrimmage action, Jock Sanders, J.D. Woods, Brandon Hogan and Eddie Davis worked on catching punts, while Tavon Austin, Noel Devine and Mark Rodgers caught kickoffs.


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