Back To Work

West Virginia's football team donned pads for the first time since its regular season-ending win over Rutgers on Saturday, and despite the lay-off the Mountaineers put in some spirited work in the Caperton Indoor Facility.

Wearing shoulder pads, helmets and shorts, WVU nonetheless had a couple of intense hitting sessions. Inside run drills, conducted without wide receivers and the back three defensive backs, had numerous big collisions as the offensive and defensive fronts vied to establish control of the line of scrimmage. Ricky Kovatch had a couple of crunching blocks from his tight end/wingback slot, and Mark Rodgers had a couple of solid runs. Overall, the defense held a bit of an advantage during the session, but there were solid plays on both sides.

Later in the practice, offensive and defensive linemen squared off for one-on-ones, with hits and wins celebrated loudly on both sides of the ball. Chris Neild had the play of the day when he steamrolled his opponent for a "sack" against a tackling dummy. The drills also featured offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen standing in for an absent Dave Johnson, who was reportedly away on a recruiting trip. Mullen cajoled and urged the linemen on during the entire practice, and also had some spirited conversations with defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich during the one-on-ones. All of the work was designed to get West Virginia back into football mode after a week of lifting and running, and judging from the hoots and hollers, along with the thwacks of pads, that mission was accomplished.


Much of the ninety-minute practice was devoted to fundamental work, with the session serving as a reinforcement and refresher of many of the basics. Footwork, ball security, and technique were stressed during individual drills at each position. For example, wide receivers worked on getting off the line against press coverage and then "getting over the top" or screening defenders off their intended line of coverage. Once a receiver gets a step on a defender on a deep route, he is taught to get behind the defender and screen him from taking a direct recovery route. For defensive backs, strip drills and tackling technique were emphasized, while down in the trenches the defensive line worked on proper routes and footwork while running twists and stunts.

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The injury situation appears to be as good as can be expected at this stage of the season. Wide receiver Bradley Starks, who missed the Rutgers game with a concussion, was in green, but that appears to be precautionary at this point. He is expected to be fine for the bowl game. Anthony Wood and Will Johnson were the only two players in red jerseys. Chad Snodgrass was in a boot, but still taking laps around the field as he tries to recover from yet another broken bone in his foot.

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Owing to the close quarters of the indoor facility, special teams got limited work, but placekicking and punt coverage did get a period's worth of attention. On punt drills, cones were set up approximately 15 yards downfield from the line of scrimmage to provide targets for those on the punt team to hit as they fanned out into their coverage lanes. Other special teams will get attention in the remaining practices before the team departs for Jacksonville on Dec. 26.

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Backups and freshmen also got a great deal of work. For most of the practice, two separate offensive and defensive units ran against each other, thus maximizing practice time quite effectively. For most of the practice, starters and key reserves went against scout teams, but one period was devoted to ones vs. ones and twos vs. twos. The two minute drill also got attention, with the first and second offensive units going against air and working on getting to the line, getting plays off and lining up again as quickly as possible.

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