Spring Practice Notebook: Day 13

To start the final week of spring drills, the WVU football team held its third and final 6:00 a.m. workout Tuesday morning. And while players and coaches alike were tasked with "setting their alarms" in the parlance of head coach Bill Stewart, it was a somewhat lighter affair at the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility.

Players donned "shells" for the 13th of the Mountaineers' 15 practices of the spring and headed inside despite weather that was brisk, but otherwise perfect.

Once there, they went about their business for a little over one hour and 45 minutes, starting with light, position-by-position warm-ups before going into stretch lines and then more intense drills.

But the "team" portion of practice, pitting offense against defense, was shorter than usual. WVU went into its "skelly compete" (a 7-on-7 "live" drill in which the offense attempts to drive for scores) with a few periods left.

The drill lasted a bit longer than it has through much of the spring, perhaps to balance for the fact that coaches opted not to have a few periods of full-scale, 11-on-11 scrimmage work like has been done almost every other day in practice.

Instead, practice ended with offense and defense breaking apart again.

The blue-clad defenders worked on a pursuit drill (in which a manager or reserve player simulates running plays to either direction or passing plays, and the defense runs to specific spots on the field along a series of cones to show knowledge of their assignments).

The offense, on the opposite end of the field, went to work on running sets as a unit to likewise show knowledge of play calls.

But during the skeleton drill, the offense seemed to have the upper hand.

Quarterback Geno Smith, taking the entirety of reps during the drill as he has all spring, was highly effective. He led four touchdown drives, tossing for scores to Stedman Bailey, Chris Snook, Jock Sanders and Reggie Rembert.

In between, he made several impressive plays to get his offense into position for those scores. He hit Bailey for a 32-yard completion on one drive, Tavon Austin for 23 yards on another, and Sanders for 47 on yet another.

His touchdown pass to Sanders, while only about five yards in length, was one of his most impressive. He fit a pass in a tight window as Sanders ran a quick crossing pattern into the middle of the field.

The offensive players seemed unenthused, walking back to the other end of the field, before coordinator Jeff Mullen chided them.

"You guys are just going through the motions," he yelled across the field. "That was a hell of a set! How about some excitement? Great job, white!"

RIFLE REPORTS:

  • Head coach Bill Stewart must have set an alarm to both show up at practice and to leave early. Stewart had an 8:00 a.m. meeting he had to attend and left the practice a few periods early to make sure he was there on time.

    Long-time Director of Football Operations Mike Kerin spoke to the team as it huddled up after practice in Stewart's absence, telling players their schedules for the rest of the morning and the coming days.

  • Fewer and fewer West Virginia players are wearing the red jerseys donned by players completely unable to participate in practice as the spring winds down.

    Defensive lineman Scooter Berry and receiver Ryan Nehlen continue to wear red, as they have all spring. Tight end Soraya Ogebar was also in red as well, as he was last week.

    Reserve quarterback Josh DePasquale (who separated a shoulder while running in the "W" drill before Saturday's scrimmage) and receiver Andrew Goldbaugh (who sustained a concussion after taking a big hit from Brandon Hogan in the same drill) joined them in the red shirts.

    A veritable army of players who were in red jerseys now find themselves in the green shirts worn by those limited in, but not totally held out of, practice.

    They include kicker Tyler Bitancurt, linebacker Branko Busick, cornerback Benji Powers, receiver Brad Starks, the quarterback Smith, linebacker J.T. Thomas and receiver J.D. Woods.

  • For the first time we have seen all spring, the Mountaineers worked on their "NASCAR" kicking -- simulating situations in which the team would want to quickly get its offense off the field and get a field goal team in position to attempt a kick as time winds down.

    Stewart was at practice while that drill was being done, and made sure his charges echoed the call of "NASCAR Alert" used by coaches to prepare the special teamers to run onto the field from the sidelines.

    Mullen held a stopwatch and timed the transition from offense to specialists on the field until the ball was snapped. The squad averaged around 10 seconds per transition.

    The kicks themselves left a bit to be desired, as Corey Smith and John Howard struggled to find their accuracy even though they were not kicking against a block unit.

  • The Mountaineers will have their final practice of the spring Wednesday evening at Milan Puskar Stadium. They will be in pads and on the field at 3:30 p.m.

    That two hour session will be the team's final tune-up before Friday night's Gold-Blue Game.


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