Spring Practice Notebook: Day 8

After a three-day hiatus, the Mountaineers held their first practice since Saturday's first scrimmage of the spring. Given time to evaluate their performance (and a few days away from Milan Puskar Stadium), players were alternatively impressive and rusty on Tuesday evening.

Falling into the latter category was quarterback Geno Smith, who, by all accounts, was simply on fire during Saturday's 7-on-7 pass skeleton drills. But it was a different story on Tuesday, as the rising sophomore just couldn't quite find his touch.

He overthrew three different receivers within a span of a very few plays during skeleton drills, starting with a narrow miss of an open Tavon Austin on a deep ball down the sideline. Smith then let one sail over the head of tight end Tyler Urban on a pass about 15 yards from the line of scrimmage, before again barely missing on a deep ball (this time to Eddie Davis).

But it wasn't all bad news for the young West Virginia signal-caller, who continued to don a green No. 9 jersey and be held out of 11-on-11 team drills as he recuperates from a broken bone in his foot.

Smith proceeded to find Davis, who had blown by multiple defenders, and hit him deep down field for what was a 55-yard touchdown pass. Later, he fit the ball in an ultra-tight window to Austin for a 20-yard scoring toss, as the slot receiver made a great play to hold on while absorbing a hit.

In 11-on-11 drills, Coley White took the reigns at quarterback and had some rough moments early before getting things under control towards the end of practice.

As has been a fixture of seemingly every practice, one botched exchange between center and White occurred early, with the blue-clad defense jumping on the football. Most of those miscues have come with reserve offensive linemen, but this time, it was starting center Joey Madsen who had trouble getting the ball cleanly into White's hands.

The defense seemed to be setting a tone, when safety Darwin Cook blew up a simple screen pass by registering a pad-popping hit on fullback Ricky Kovatch.

But White started to make some plays in short order.

First, he smartly avoided a pass rush, calmly stepped over a fallen defensive lineman before stepping up in the pocket to fire a pass to Brad Starks, who had worked his way open near the sideline for a 24-yard gain.

After a pair of nice runs (first from Shawne Alston, who gained about 20 yards up the middle; and next, from Noel Devine, who took off around left end and out-ran and juked out cornerback Pat Miller, finding a crease that may have led to a touchdown if the play had not been blown dead), White then found Stedman Bailey for about 20 yards on a crossing pattern.

He also made a nice throw to a well-covered Urban for 10 more yards near the end of 11-on-11s.

Practice concluded with work on 2-point conversion plays, and White ended things on a high note.

He threw a perfect fade pass to Starks, who was covered well, for a conversion. On the last play of the day, White then took a called quarterback keeper into the end zone easily.

RIFLE REPORTS:

  • There were plenty of changes in terms of who was wearing the green and red jerseys of those players either limited or held out of practice, respectively.

    Running back Daquan Hargrett and wide receiver J.D. Woods both were upgraded from red jerseys to green ones.

    The same held true for Tyler Bitancurt, as the kicker was seen on the field for the first time this spring. He didn't do any kicking, but he stood behind and watched Corey Smith during "live" field goal drills early in practice. Previously, Bitancurt had been on a stationary bike for every session this spring.

    And after donning a green No. 5 jersey for the first two weeks of practice, receiver Brad Starks was finally out of the Christmas colors and back into a conventional white shirt. He turned some heads by coming onto the field (he was late due to academic conflicts) in a white No. 2 jersey -- the number previously worn by Logan Heastie.

    The only addition to the roster of injured players was linebacker J.T. Thomas, who was in a green jersey for reasons that were not immediately clear. Thomas participated in early drills, but did not work in the "team" situations that concluded practice.

  • One instance of frustration for offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen led to one of the funnier moments of spring practice thus far.

    Mullen was irate that a play-call had somehow been lost in translation between the coaches signaling it in and White relaying it to the team at the beginning of 11-on-11 drills.

    No one was on the same page, and Mullen quickly realized it.

    "The play call," he began, walking out on the field and yelling in frustration loud enough for the entire stadium to hear, "is 23 zone!"

    Always looking for a leg up on the competition, defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich wasted little time in dispensing some appropriate wisdom to his charges.

    "Watch the zone!" he bellowed from the opposite side of the field.


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