Spring Practice Notebook: Day 10

All of WVU's players and coaches were up early Friday morning for the team's second (and final) 6:00 a.m. workout of the spring practice period. But once again, it was the players on the team's defense that truly "set their alarms" as head coach Bill Stewart is fond of saying.

It was the second consecutive day of rough going for the white-clad offense, which faced some stiff competition from its teammates on the opposite side of the ball.

In 7-on-7 pass "skeleton" drills, quarterback Geno Smith had another off day.

He nearly through an interception on one of his first passes of the drill, as cornerback Brandon Hogan bobbled and eventually dropped a ball thrown almost directly into his chest.

A few plays later, Smith wasn't so lucky. He was picked off by Sidney Glover while trying to throw to a receiver who was running an inside slant route. Smith apparently never saw the safety, as Glover was in perfect position and easily intercepted the pass.

The rising sophomore signal-caller atoned for his mistakes shortly thereafter, hitting an open Will Johnson down the middle of the field for a 43-yard gain to put the second-team offense fewer than 10 yards away from a score against the second-team defense.

With starting linebacker J.T. Thomas (who, again, was limited in practice and wearing a green jersey) serving as a cheerleader for the defense from the sidelines, the blue shirts stepped up and made a series of plays to force a fourth-and-goal situation.

Smith again made a miscue on that play, short-arming a pass toward the corner of the end zone that was intended for Johnson. That allowed safety Eain Smith to get in position and pick off the pass before kneeling down for a touchback and celebrating with his teammates.

But it wasn't just the quarterback Smith who was struggling. He didn't get much help from receivers in the "skeleton compete" portion of practice.

Tyler Urban dropped a well-thrown ball from Smith in the middle of the field on one play. On the next snap, Johnson failed to tuck away a pass that would have gone for about 30 yards, as a well-timed hit from Eain Smith forced the ball out of the tight end's hands.

In 11-on-11 drills, when Coley White took over for Geno Smith under center, things didn't go much better.

In what has been a disturbing trend this spring, bad exchanges from center to quarterback were again on display Friday morning. Starting center Joey Madsen botched a shotgun snap to White at one point, forcing the signal-caller to scoop the ball up off the turf.

With the second-team offense on the field near the end of practice, another bad exchange happened -- this time with White directly under center. J.B. Lageman recovered for the defense.

Even the offense's biggest star, running back Noel Devine, was not able to pull off any heroics.

When he caught a simple screen pass, the rising senior saw defenders coming towards him quickly. He tried to reverse field and got all the way to the opposite sideline and seemed to have a crease when he used a stutter-step to freeze cornerback Keith Tandy.

But safety Robert Sands showed some impressive speed for a man his height. He closed quickly and cut off the opening, forcing Devine out of bounds with only a short gain.

White managed to give the offense perhaps its lone highlight of the day by tossing a 55-yard scoring pass to Tavon Austin near the end of practice.

Austin had zipped down the middle of the field past multiple defenders, and White delivered a solid ball that allowed Austin to catch it in stride and run into the end zone untouched.

That play, which came only a couple of snaps after White showed a bit of frustration when Austin dropped what what have been a completion for a substantial gain, drew widely different reactions from those on both sides of the ball.

The quarterback Smith was the first to congratulate White, slapping hands with his teammate and pumping his fists in excitement. Offensive players celebrated perhaps more than they have for any other play this spring.

On the other side, the defense was scolded by coordinator Jeff Casteel, whose boisterous instructions in the huddle reverberated off the walls in the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility.

RIFLE REPORTS:

  • Just a few days after finally getting out of his green jersey, receiver Brad Starks was in red and held out of practice after re-aggravating his ankle injury.

    Tight end Soraya Ogebar joined Starks in red for the first time Friday. The rest of the roster of those limited or held out of practice was largely unchanged from Wednesday.

  • Head coach Bill Stewart was not pleased with Friday morning's effort. As the practice concluded and the team huddled together, Stewart loudly scolded his West Virginia players.

    His anger and frustration was quite apparent. No interviews were held after practice, so reporters weren't able to question the coach on what he didn't like about the day's practice.

  • The Mountaineers will have their second scheduled scrimmage of the spring tomorrow morning. It will be their final full-scale scrimmage before the Blue-Gold game, to be held one week from tonight.


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