Spring Practice Notebook: Day 7

The Mountaineers were up early on Friday morning, taking part in their first 6:00 a.m. practice of the season. And while the lights at Milan Puskar Stadium had to be used before the sun rose over Morgantown, it was quarterback Coley White who really lit things up.

It was a somewhat lighter affair, as the players donned "shells" once more and spent considerably more time in position-by-position drills. But there was no lack of competition in the workout, which lasted about 105 minutes.

The entirety of the final periods of practice were spent in 11-on-11 drills that had not gotten much work previously this spring. Extensive work was done on specific third down situations, with several snaps devoted to three different distances.

The defense got the upper hand in work on third-and-3 situations. A bad exchange between center Joey Madsen and quarterback Coley White, which was recovered by the blue-clad defenders, got things off to a rough start.

A few plays later, a botched handoff from White to Shawne Alston was also recovered by the defense, and safety Eain Smith celebrated the second turnover generated by coordinator Jeff Casteel's charges (as the defense always sets a goal of getting three takeaways per day).

But the short-yardage work would prove to be the offense's worst set. Once line of scrimmage was backed up a bit and the team went to work on third-and-7 situations, the white shirts fared a bit better.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen pulled a trick play out of the arsenal, running a hook-and-ladder play off a screen pass from White to Jock Sanders. The slot receiver then pitched the ball to a waiting Noel Devine, who found a small crease along the sideline and went for 10 yards and a first down.

That seemed to open up things a bit more, as Alston then burst through the middle of the second-team defense a couple of plays later for a 15-yard gain. Then, another screen pass, this time to Devine, looked to be snuffed out before the rising senior again found a seam and got 10 yards before being forced out of bounds.

The defense reclaimed the upper hand when the ball was moved back two more yards for third-and-9 work.

But White, the younger brother of former West Virginia star Pat White, made perhaps the best pass of his young career on the last play of the drill.

He avoided a rush just enough to buy a bit more time before uncorking a deep ball to Eddie Davis, who had gotten past cornerback Pat Miller. The ball was perfectly delivered over Davis' shoulder, and the converted defensive back hauled it in for about a 45-yard gain.

The pass was so well-thrown that some defenders had to ask their teammates for verification it was White who had been at quarterback on the play, and not the injured Geno Smith.

That momentum carried over into the final periods of practice, which were devoted to work in a two-minute drill.

White calmly delivered a strike across the middle of the field to tight end Tyler Urban for about 10 yards on a fourth-and-1 play from the defense's 40-yard line.

After the offense struggled to generate anything for the next three plays, he again made an incredible play, throwing a beautiful fade pass to Tavon Austin on fourth-and-10 for a 30-yard touchdown.

Austin had beaten Brodrick Jenkins on the play, but Jenkins had nicely recovered -- but no defender would have been able to stop what was a perfectly thrown ball, with plenty of air under it and, again, delivered just over the receiver's shoulder in the corner of the end zone.

That led Casteel to chide the first-team defenders when they got back to the sidelines, as the defensive coordinator said he had warned them that White was capable of such heroics.

"You just got beat," he said to the defense, repetitively.


  • Incoming freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson was in attendance at Friday morning's session.

    He spent much of the early portion of practice glued to Mullen's hip, as Johnson's soon-to-be position coach was explaining the finer points of several of the fundamental drills the Mountaineer quarterbacks do in certain parts of practice.

    BlueGoldNews.com attempted to get an interview with Johnson after practice, but he was whisked away into the Milan Puskar Center by a team staffer -- presumably to continue to talk with Mullen.

  • Just as head coach Bill Stewart got a bit of good news on the injury front, another player moved into the team's Christmas colored jerseys.

    Cornerback Keith Tandy and running back Noel Devine moved out of their red and green jerseys, respectively, for Friday morning's drills.

    But that red shirt was quickly taken by Benji Powers, who spent the morning working out on a stationary bike.

    The injured lists now look like this: quarterback Geno Smith, receiver Brad Starks and kicker Tyler Bitancurt are in green jerseys; while defensive lineman Scooter Berry, running back Daquan Hargrett, receiver Ryan Nehlen, Powers, cornerback Lawrence Smith and receiver J.D. Woods continue to don red jerseys.

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