Fall Practice Notebook: Day 3

Mother Nature did her part Monday afternoon to see just how much the WVU football team's offseason conditioning work had paid off, as oppressive heat characterized the third day of the squad's preseason training camp.

Temperatures were just shy of 90 degrees in Morgantown during practice, and the intense, direct sunlight overhead made it feel a few degrees warmer still.

It was the kind of heat that even sent some of the reporters watching from the sidelines, doing nothing more than standing still and scribbling a few notes, to the team's water coolers for a bit of a refreshment.

Things only promise to get hotter, as high temperatures are expected to reach into the low 90s on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

That may be tough for some players to deal with, as a few Mountaineers clearly felt the effects of the weather on Monday more than others.

Freshman Trey Johnson was audibly gasping for breath after several reps at a drill in which running backs run through a series of spring-loaded "arms" (which are tightly coiled and not luxuriously padded -- a painful proposition).

Streams of sweat were quite visibly pouring down the face of fullback Ryan Clarke, who was wise in seeking out water from team trainers in between drills on a few occasions.

But the players at least got a bit of a respite as a result of the surface they were working on. The Mountaineers spent Monday afternoon on the grass practice field that is just above the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility.

That natural surface is a good bit cooler than the FieldTurf that covers Mountaineer Field inside Milan Puskar Stadium, as the black rubber pellets that form the base of the playing field tend to hold heat remarkably well.

West Virginia coaches took advantage of the opportunity to use the auxiliary practice field, which not only allowed their players to escape the worst of the heat, but afforded an opportunity to preview the natural grass surface that they will play on when the team travels to Tiger Stadium at LSU for the fourth game of the season.

In early drills, offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen watched quarterbacks and receivers work at the same "post-up" routine that is part of every practice and was detailed in yesterday's practice notebook.

After watching a few reps with receivers running to the dummies along one sideline, Mullen stopped the drill and instructed managers to bring those dummies in about a half yard, just off the sideline chalk.

The purpose was two-fold. First, it would help preserve the edge of the Mountaineers' grass field for later practices. Second, it would reinforce a key point that will serve players well in the game at LSU, since grass surfaces tend to degrade most quickly along the highly-trafficked areas nearest the sidelines.

"When we're playing on this grass, when we go down south to LSU, we don't want to keep too tight to the sideline," Mullen instructed his players. "That way, we don't slip and fall down on the field."


  • In one-on-one battles between receivers and defensive backs, each position had something to show at the end of a highly-competitive period of work.

    Tavon Austin drew some hoots and hollers of appreciation when he caught a short pass, made one impressive juke move and then outran cornerback Brandon Hogan to the sidelines before cutting upfield.

    "That's a touchdown!" receivers coach Lonnie Galloway repeatedly barked at Hogan, taunting him.

    Ivan McCartney also made a few jaws drop with an impressive move of his own, which came at the expense of walk-on defensive back and Morgantown native Anthony Vecchio.

    But it wasn't all bad for cornerbacks coach David Lockwood.

    Brodrick Jenkins stuck to receiver Stedman Bailey like glue on one rep and made a nice play to jump up and break up the attempted pass.

    Hogan redeemed himself with an interception (admittedly on a ball that was well under-thrown by Lockwood), and freshman Ishmael Banks also had an impressive PBU on a pass thrown to receiver Reggie Rembert.

  • Despite the intense heat and the intense workload, there was some good natured ribbing going back and forth, helping keep the mood light.

    During the team's stretching period, defensive lineman Larry Ford was chided for his lack of flexibility by position coach Bill Kirelawich. Ford was apparently complaining about being unable to bend as far into a particular stretch as he wanted to because of the knee braces all of the defensive linemen wear.

    "You couldn't bend your knees any further than that, brace or no brace," Kirelawich barked at Ford.

    "They're still better than them rickety old things you've got," Ford fired back.

    For once, Kirelawich did not have an immediate comeback.

    The jocularity continued later, when running backs used the team's new apparatus for ball security drills -- a long band which wraps around the ball and is pulled by one player while the other attempts to hold the ball high and tight to his body.

    Noel Devine had a bit of fun trying to rip the ball out of Jock Sanders' hands, playfully making loud grunting noises as he yanked on the band before giving Sanders a bit of slack and then trying again.

    Devine's efforts went for naught, as Sanders displayed textbook form and kept control of the pigskin.

  • While both Greg Pugnetti and Corey Smith struggled in punt drills on Sunday, both seemed to have a better day Monday.

    Both were far more consistent, avoiding the shanks and line drives that characterized their portion of practice the day before.

    Smith, particularly, boomed one especially impressive kick that seemed to hang in the air for an eternity and flew far enough to cause Hogan to backpedal a good 10 yards to get in position to catch the ball.

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