The day was dominated by the defense, with the blue shirts holding the first team offense out of the end zone on the afternoon. The first team offense did manage a pair of field goals, but was unable to dent the goal line. The second team offense scored twice, with quarterback Coley White weaving 35 yards for a score and Andrew Goldblaugh catching a sideline pass and scooting just inside the left pylon.
Still it was a day in which the defense held the upper hand, as was shown when the offense went through a series of "up downs" after practice for missed assignments.
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It remains difficult to get a true picture of what the offense might look like in full scrimmage sessions, as Geno Smith continues to sit out any situations in which he might suffer an inadvertent blow to his broken foot. Coley White has improved, and is throwing the ball better, but is still not in Smith's league in that department. White did have several nice scrambles and one good gain off a designed run, but his status as a "no-contact" player in the scrimmage can make it difficult to judge whether or not he would have been tackled in certain situations.
Underneath pass routes dominated the scrimmage with White at the controls for all three units. Jock Sanders and Eddie Davis combined for half of the 12 receptions in the scrimmage, with most of those catches coming in the middle of the field.
There's no doubt that WVU has set a record for the length of skeleton passing sessions this spring. Multiple periods are devoted to this work, in which no linemen participate. that allows Smith to get in as much work as possible. He made the most of it today, looking off receivers and hitting options all over the field.
"Today was as good of a day as I have seen the Mountaineer quarterback throw the ball in pass skeleton in a long, long time. In the soon to be 11 years I have been here, Geno was hot," head coach Bill Stewart noted. "He was hitting the target, his reads were good and his timing was good. He just looked really good."
Again, though, the results must be taken with a grain of salt, as Smith was not under pressure from any linemen during the sessions. Offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen is doing as much as he can to simulate game action, however. On several occasions during passing drills, Mullen ran at Smith and forced him to readjust in the "pocket" before making a throw.
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Linebacker J.T. Thomas had two big his on the day, flattening Tyler Urban after a short reception and stuffing running back Shawne Alston on a series of 'coming out' plays from the offense's two yard line (that's the minus-two in coaching parlance). Offensive lineman Josh Jenkins and defensive lineman Julian Miller stayed locked up after one confrontation and had to be separated by an officiating crew that was largely invisible on the afternoon.
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Alston ran hard and effectively during the 'coming out' series, earning several tough yards and helping move the offense out of the shadow of its own goal line.
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Kicking was an issue on the windy day. Corey Smith continues to struggle with height on his placekicks, with three of them being blocked by Chris Neild. Smith can get the ball up quickly, but is having problems doing so consistently. Punting was a mixed bag in the wind, with both Smith and Greg Pugnetti hitting average boots in full team work. During individual drills, they were better, but consistency is still a big issue.
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Brandon Hogan returned to the action, but with the second unit, and that not until late in the action after the threes had their chance on the field. It was against that unit that fullback Matt Lindamood ripped off the longest play of the day, a 52-yard run down the left sideline. Lindamood appeared headed for a score before stepping out of bounds on the defense's 13-yard line.
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With a shorter scrimmage than normal, normal practice periods were held before the 60-play session. In addition to the skeleton drills, several periods of individual drills were held. Ball security was a focus of work with running backs and receivers, as several different sessions were held with different attacks on the ball by defenders and coaches with pads, as well as with an apparatus that simulates arms reaching for the ball.
One-on-ones between offensive and defensive linemen were also a highlight of the pre-scrimmage sessions. Redshirt freshmen on both sides of the line received a number of repetitions, with breaks in between each rep for coaching from Bill Kirelawich and Dave Johnson. The best of this group might be defensive end Will Clarke, who shows great potential at the position. How much he will be able to contribute this year remains to be seen, but he looks to be a very good player in the making.
Future Mountaineers Bruce Irvin and Jeremy Johnson took in practice today. Irvin is set to enroll in mid-May and begin working with the team, while Johnson is set to enroll in July with other early-arriving freshmen.