Spring Practice Notebook: Day 6

The Mountaineers' practice on Wednesday evening was devoid of the spectacular on both sides of the ball and characterized by several mental mistakes by players on both offense and defense. That made the team's head coach a very unhappy man.

While BlueGoldNews.com will have a full story with the comments of WVU head coach Bill Stewart later, some of his post-practice remarks were bold enough to merit a couple of looks.

Stewart, entering his third season as head coach at West Virginia, said his team's sixth practice of the spring was a disappointment largely because of the mental miscues made by players. He said that was a direct result of a lack of leadership on the field.

"You get a couple of guys that get nicked up, dinged up, put on a red jersey or a green jersey, and all of a sudden, leadership starts spiraling down," he said. "I'm not pleased with that."

For the second straight day, the ranks of those in the Christmas-colored uniforms (worn by those Mountaineers either limited or unable to participate in practice due to injury) grew at Milan Puskar Stadium.

Running back Shawne Alston moved into a green No. 22 jersey, but participated in the vast majority of drills. Cornerback Keith Tandy was in a red jersey and worked out on a stationary bike for the duration of practice, but Stewart did not say what Tandy's issue was.

Offensive lineman Matt Timmerman also donned green on Wednesday for a reason that was not immediately clear. Reserve cornerback Lawrence Smith returned to practice, but was also in a red jersey and on a bike beside Tandy after injuring a finger in Saturday's practice.

Those players only added to what had already been a lengthy list in green and red. Quarterback Geno Smith, receiver Brad Starks, running back Noel Devine, receiver J.D. Woods, running back Daquan Hargrett and defensive lineman Scooter Berry all were still either limited or held out of action as well, as they all continued to don the special shirts.

It appeared as though there was a possible shortage on red jerseys, as kicker Tyler Bitancurt, who had been wearing a red No. 3 jersey for the first five practices, was instead moved to a green top. That didn't mean he was any more ready to practice, as the rising sophomore continued to work out on a stationary bike as well.

But Stewart insisted the number of players injured wasn't weighing on his mind.

"I'm not concerned," he said simply.


  • While the players were in full pads for only the second time this spring, that didn't seem to translate into the intensity Stewart hoped to see on the field.

    The practice opened, as most full-padded practices do at WVU, with the "V" drill. There were not a lot of big hits or exceptional blocks or runs in the brief period the Mountaineers spent working on the old-school, physical drill.

    J.T. Thomas had perhaps the lone highlight of the drill, as he got around a block and made a solid, pad-popping hit on a reserve runner at the second level.

  • That sluggish performance in the "V" drill perhaps was just a sign of things to come. In "live" placekicking drills, Corey Smith had his worst performance of the spring so far.

    Looking on the bright side, though, that could be attributed to a field goal block team that wreaked havoc. After Smith, a transfer from Alabama, made a point-after kick, he didn't make a single field goal.

    Members of the block team got their hands on a relatively short (around 30 yards out) attempt from the right hash. Smith didn't fare much better when he stepped back to mid-range (a little more than 35 yards away) and was once again blocked from the left hash.

    The block team may have been in his head when he pulled a kick of a little more than 40 yards well wide to the left, even though it had plenty of distance.

  • After breaking into positional drills, the Mountaineers then reconvened to go offense against defense on an inside rushing drill.

    Fullback Ryan Clarke worked his way out of Stewart's doghouse (he had spent the first several days of practice running the stadium stairs, flipping massive tires and performing other grueling tasks for reasons that were never declared) and brought a bit of intensity to the workout, bursting through the middle of the defense after taking a handoff.

    As safety Darwin Cook rushed up to try to make a tackle, Clarke lowered his shoulder -- and the boom -- on the blue-clad defender, drawing some praise from his teammates and coaches.

    Also surprisingly effective during the inside drill was Parkersburg native Matt Lindamood. The fullback ran strong on several repetitions during the inside drill. He, too, made a defender pay for a tackle attempt, as safety Eain Smith was sent to the turf when Lindamood powered through the last level of defenders on one play.

  • In pass "skeleton" 7-on-7 work that started at the defense's 20-yard line, both the injured quarterback Smith and fellow signal-caller Coley White had a chance to make plays.

    They didn't make many. But each at least got the ball into the end zone for a score once.

    White connected with converted defensive back Eddie Davis for a touchdown on a simple post route run by Davis. Smith got into the act just a few plays later, getting the ball to receiver Stedman Bailey, who had worked himself wide open, for a score.

  • As per usual, Smith was sidelined for full-scale 11-on-11 drills that concluded the practice. That left White a chance to shine, and he performed admirably.

    The Daphne, Ala., native showed some of his brother Pat's skills on one play, cutting through the middle of the defense for what would have been a gain of at least 30 yards.

    White had faked a handoff to running back Tavon Austin, who had been in motion from one side to the other before the snap. The defense bit on the fake, and White found a sizable gap in the middle of the line. He showed solid speed in the open field and would have had a big gain in a game situation.

    Tight end Will Johnson was White's best friend and worst enemy in the passing game during the 11-on-11 work. Johnson was on the receiving end of the quarterback's best pass during the drills, which went for about 18 yards.

    But the tight end also bobbled and then dropped another pass from White just a few plays later when he was wide open and would have had another gain of at least 20.

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