Spring Practice Notebook: Day 4

On Saturday, the Mountaineers donned full pads for the first time this spring. The added intensity of the team's fourth practice was in line with what coaches hoped to see. But the many injuries sustained throughout the two hour session were not.

A mid-practice injury to rising senior running back Noel Devine drew the most attention. Devine sustained a bruised left quadricep muscle during the team's "skelly compete" drill, which is basically a "live action" 7-on-7 series where the offense attempts to gain first downs and ultimate score touchdowns.

Devine wasn't hit hard on the play that sent him to the turf on Mountaineer Field. Indeed, it appeared linebacker Anthony Leonard merely brushed by the running back. But it was just enough to send Devine to the ground, where he remained for a couple of tense minutes.

For the first time this spring, almost no one was making a sound as the Ft. Myers, Fla., native was tended to on the field. He ultimately got up and hobbled off the field under his own power, but limping noticeably.

He jogged around on a sideline after being tended to a bit longer. Head coach Bill Stewart said Devine would be fine and that if Saturday was a game day, the running back would have played.

But the rising senior star was only one of several West Virginia players to get some bumps and bruises.

Wide receiver J.D. Woods pulled a hamstring in one-on-one drills. The severity of the pull wasn't immediately clear, and Stewart said after practice that he didn't know how long Woods would be held out.

Reserve cornerback Lawrence Smith injured a finger, getting it trapped in another player's face-mask. The severity of that injury also was not immediately clear.

Running back Daquan Hargrett also tweaked an ankle early in practice, but seemed to be okay. The same was true for safety Eain Smith, who stayed down on the field in the end zone for some time after running into a teammate in mid-air while attempting to pick off a Coley White pass. Smith returned to practice later and appeared to be fine.


  • Perhaps all the injuries shouldn't come as a huge surprise, as the first day of practice was easily the most physical of the four sessions Stewart and company have had so far this spring.

    The practice started with the infamous "Victory" drill (also known as the "Oklahoma" drill). Meant to force players into making plays one-on-one and in tight quarters, the drill brought several big plays from both offensive and defensive players.

    The offense seemed to be getting the upper hand early, as Hargrett had a couple of clean runs through each of the three levels of defense, going almost untouched past the safeties.

    But Chris Neild made the play of the day in the "V" drill, pushing offensive lineman Josh Jenkins out of his way with a brute force move before making a hard tackle on reserve running back Shawne Alston.

  • The punting competition may be up in the air all the way through fall practice, as Greg Pugnetti and Alabama transfer Corey Smith both looked impressive during live punt exercises early in practice.

    Pugnetti hit a beautiful, high kick that seemed to stay in the sunny Morgantown skies forever before finally coming down at midfield. The punt traveled 48 yards in the air and had enough hang time to allow a coverage team to get in position easily.

    Smith hit a punt that traveled 49 yards in the air, but didn't quite have the loft of Pugnetti's best kick. Each also had lower kicks that traveled on 43 yards. Smith's worst punt traveled 38 yards, while Pugnetti's went for 42.

  • Quarterback Geno Smith made a few nice plays in the aforementioned "skelly compete" drill, hitting Bradley Starks for a 38-yard gain on the first snap of the period. The rising sophomore then found tight end Tyler Urban for a 13-yard touchdown pass to conclude the drive.

    After a possession led by White, Smith returned to the field. He tossed a 19-yard scoring pass to Tavon Austin on a third-and-8 play. The touchdown came on a busted coverage, which receivers coach Lonnie Galloway recognized even before Smith did. Galloway was yelling, "Touchdown! Touchdown!" on the field before the ball had even left the quarterback's hands.

    But the defense did end the drill on a strong note, with cornerback Pat Miller making a nice play on the ball to break up what looked like a sure touchdown pass from Smith to Bradley Starks. Miller stepped in front of Starks and timed his leap perfectly to make a nice play on the ball on fourth-and-goal.

  • As Smith continued to be held out of team drills while he recovers from the broken bone in his foot, White again took all of the snaps in 11-on-11 work.

    He made perhaps his best play of the spring early, standing tall in the pocket and even stepping up in it despite pressure in his face to make a nice pass to Jock Sanders in the middle of the field for around 10 yards.

    White also found cornerback-turned-receiver Eddie Davis for a gain of about 30 yards on another play. Davis made a nice adjustment to turn his body and make the grab on an underthrown ball.

    But the play of the day in 11-on-11 drills belonged to Austin, the rising sophomore. He took a handoff around left end and found a small crease. The athletic receiver then cut across the field and made no less than three stunning moves, juking defenders with jab steps across the middle of the field, then getting to the opposite sideline and racing about 40 yards downfield.

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