All of the team's players huddled at midfield at the conclusion of light warm-ups and broke that huddle in unison with the word "intensity" bellowing out across the grass practice field adjacent to the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility.
West Virginia then went to work on putting that word into practice. Drills began with the infamous "V" (or "Oklahoma") drill, with a running back or slot receiver tasked with running through a narrow lane of cones as offensive and defensive players battle in one-on-one match-ups, trying to block and tackle, respectively.
Reserve defensive lineman Jorge Wright was impressive, slipping a block from Matt Timmerman to make a nice tackle on freshman walk-on Cotey Wallace. A few plays later, Wright turned the trick again, this time bringing down slot receiver Coley White.
Indeed, perhaps the biggest oddity of the drill was seeing White put squarely in the crosshairs of WVU defenders looking to tee up for big hits. Until this fall, White had more typically been in a quarterback's gold no-contact jersey, safe from the punishment. The redshirt sophomore took his share of hits, but also broke cleanly through on one play.
Running back Shawne Alston had a nice rep late in the drill, breaking easily through the three tiers of defenders. Tavon Austin was physical enough as a blocker on one play that Benji Powers, the subject of the slot receiver's tenacity, had to be separated from Austin afterwards.
The drill set the tone for a physical day, which should test the Mountaineers' conditioning. Temperatures were still hovering just shy of 90 degrees at practice time, and high humidity seemed to hang over the practice field like a heavy blanket. Only the occasional cloud provided a respite from the weather.
In one-on-one match-ups between wide receivers and defensive backs, freshman Ivan McCartney turned a few heads. He caught a quick slant pass from receivers coach Lonnie Galloway, but cornerback Brodrick Jenkins seemed to be quickly zooming in for a hit.
But McCartney recognized what was about to happen, made a quick side-step and a spin move and left Jenkins grasping at nothing but air. Adding insult to injury, Jenkins was then asked to do 10 push-ups as penance by position coach Dave Lockwood.
Scouts from the Baltimore Ravens, Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins were all in attendance at practice Wednesday, wearing their team-logo polos and watching the action from the sidelines, stopping occasionally to chat with each other.
There was no indication of just who those scouts were in town to watch.
The sophomore was perfect on his attempts in live field goal drills. Unlike yesterday, when a low ball from Bitancurt was easily blocked by Eain Smith, all of the kicks had plenty of loft under the ball. Indeed, one of his makes sailed cleanly up and over a crane positioned high above the practice field to allow staffers to video the workouts.
Those kicks carried plenty of distance as well. Bitancurt's longest attempt of the drill, from around 45 yards away, sailed through the uprights with easily 15 yards to spare. That drew some appreciative yells from teammates.
Head coach Bill Stewart characterized the move as "precautionary" yesterday, as Thomas is again dealing with the same pain in his neck that limited him this spring.