Taking It All Into Account

West Virginia's first officiated scrimmage offered some interesting points for observation, but it also could lead to some false conclusions, if the circumstances of the day's work aren't correctly taken into account.

For example, anyone trying to determine a tentative depth chart by watching the afternoon's proceedings would quickly be bogged down, and soon hopelessly lost. The absence of some starters, along with wholesale mixing and matching throughout the afternoon practice session, combined to yield a muddled picture of complete units on both sides of the ball. Of course, most of the first teams on the offense and defense are fairly well identified, but this day's work was a chance for players to grab the attention of the coaches and show what they can do.

Those looking for statistics or scoring drives to tell the tale of the day also could be misled. The situational scrimmaging lets coaches look at the plays they want to see, but doesn't do much for continuity. With each unit getting a series, then sitting out for the next couple, it can be difficult to develop consistency or a true game flow. That work will come during the final two weeks of practice, when the depth chart is whittled down and the ones and twos get all of the work in preparation for the games to come.

As a result, many erroneous conclusions can be drawn from a look at the stats. Offenses can look bad when drives started from their own two-yard line are factored in, because in most instances those are halted when they gain a couple of first downs. Defenses can look like sieves when drives that start in the red zone (on Saturday, they began as close as the nine-yard line), are taken into account.

The scrimmage offered more of a chance to see which players might be making a bid for more playing time, and also highlighted some stellar sequences of individual play:

  • With Brad Starks again in a red shirt for a full-contact day, Jock Sanders, Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin and J.D. Woods got the bulk of the early work at wide receiver. Freshman Ivan McCartney didn't appear until the "threes" took the field, but did get open deep and pull in a nice pass from fellow freshman Barry Brunetti.

  • Brunetti got the first series for the backups, but there probably shouldn't be much read into that. Someone has to go first, and the two have been getting equal time in practice to date. Soon, however, a decision will have to be made as to which QB – he or Jeremy Johnson – will be groomed for the backup role this season. Both had nice plays in the scrimmage, with Brunetti arcing a couple of nice touch passes and Johnson flashing through the defense on a pair of designed runs.

  • It wasn't a flashy play, but was one that showed the progress Geno Smith has made and highlighted what he has to do for WVU to be successful this year. With the defense loading up for a blitz from his right side, Smith calmly checked down to his hot read and hit a circling Jock Sanders, who ran his route right into the location vacated by blitzing linebacker J.T. Thomas. Sanders picked up 13 yards on the third down play, moving the chains and keeping the ball for the offense.

  • Could West Virginia be more loaded at running back? There's Noel Devine, of course. Shawne Alston and Ryan Clarke both impressed, with Alston running hard inside and Clarke picking up some tough yards and making a nice catch out of the backfield. Daquan Hargrett made a tough one-handed grab on a flare route. Ricky Kovatch and Matt Lindamood each ran hard and bowled over defenders on a couple of plays. Even true freshman Trey Johnson, who has ripped off some impressive gains in situational work during the week, has shone with talent.

    It can be easy to overcook the results of an individual practice, or create a trend that might not exist. Such is the case for kicking and punting, where every miss and mishit is documented with almost fatalistic obsession. Certainly coaches don't want to see bad kicks in practice, but that's part of the reason for practice – to see what players can and can't do, and to work on those things that need improvement. The kicking game hasn't been perfect yet by an stretch, but it's not cause for panic, either. Punters Gregg Pugnetti and Corey Smith have the legs to boot the ball high and deep. Tyler Bitancurt has already proved that he can produce in pressure situations.

    One general impression that pervades observations of preseason camp still remains true, however. This team just looks and feels a step faster, a step more athletic, than previous Mountaineer teams. The defense swarms to the ball aggressively. Second teamers such as Brantwon Bowser and Eain Smith are finding homes in WVU's 40-front defensive look. Even the freshmen, collectively, move well and show why West Virginia's coaches coveted them.

    Finally, what does it say about the defense when it can still play well with four starters sidelined? With Sidney Glover and Keith Tandy again dressed in red, Chris Neild got the day off from scrimmage work, and Pat Lazear was booted from the action after administering a blow to the head to an offensive linemen on Noel Devine's long touchdown run. Even with with those absences, the defense played well. Larry Ford subbed in adequately at nose, Branko Busick got some good work in at middle linebacker, Brodrick Jenkins filled in for Tandy and Smith took over for Glover.


    Among the notables taking in the day's scrimmage were Quincy Wilson, Boogie Allen, and Oliver Luck. A scout for the Indianapolis Colts was also on hand. Luck, when asked if watching made him itch to get back on the field, laughed. "No, I've had my time," he said.

    Offensive lineman Nick Kindler will miss the entire season with the shoulder injury that forced surgery this summer. He is expected to be cleared for full contact in February. If that timetable holds true, he would be able to participate in spring practice.

    Big hits were evident throughout the scrimmage, with Pat Miller, Mike Dorsey, Ryan Clarke and Matt Lindamood all blasting or running over opponents. The guy to keep an eye on, however, is spur Terence Garvin, who consistently records pad-popping smackdowns of opponents.

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