Fall Practice Notebook: Day 11

WVU freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson strolled out of the Milan Puskar Center in his gold jersey Wednesday afternoon and joined his teammates in a regularly-scheduled scrimmage on the Mountaineer Field turf.

Johnson, who had missed practice each of the previous two days and was "homesick" according to head coach Bill Stewart, was back in the fold and participating in the scrimmage .

The Texas native reportedly attended meetings Wednesday morning and ended (at least for now) any suspense about whether he would transfer by coming out of the Puskar Center to warm up just a few minutes before the start of a full-padded practice.

It is unclear exactly what transpired between Tuesday evening, when Johnson was still not participating with the team, and Wednesday morning to convince the quarterback to return to action at West Virginia.

BlueGoldNews.com will have more on the matter after a press conference with Stewart, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. local time.

The practice itself began with a few rounds of action in the "V" drill. The offense seemed to have the upper hand in the highly-competitive period.

Running back Daquan Hargrett made a nice move on one rep, slipping a tackle attempt from safety Terence Garvin and getting past the third level of defense. A few plays later, freshman Trey Johnson showed his impressive ability to accelerate, making a decisive move to the left side and slipping along the cones untouched.

With that, the scrimmage began with the offenses taking the field in a first-and-goal situation at the defense's 8-yard line.

The first-team offense was impressive, as the white shirts only needed one play on each of their first two drives to reach paydirt.

On the first, quarterback Geno Smith made a nice play-fake to running back Noel Devine, rolled to his right and fired a rocket right to receiver Stedman Bailey in the middle of the end zone. To start the next series, Smith did hand off to Devine, who evaded tacklers in the middle of the field and found room off the left side to go for another 8-yard score.

The second-team defense largely had the upper hand against the offensive reserves, no matter who was under center.

Four straight handoffs from Barry Brunetti to Shawne Alston weren't enough to yield a touchdown on the backups' first series, as the defense held the running back to a yard on a fourth-and-goal play from the 2-yard line.

Johnson then came on the field and fired a pair of incompletions. A holding penalty had backed the offense up into a fourth-and-goal from the 15-yard line, but Johnson managed to make something out of nothing.

He scrambled around for several seconds, buying time as no receivers came open quickly. The freshman found Daquan Hargrett in the middle of the field at about the 7-yard line, and Hargrett just got to the pylon before he was brought down, giving the offense another touchdown.

Trey Johnson again impressed on the next series for the reserves. After being gang-tackled for a loss of three yards on first down, he burst through a hole on the left side and scored an 11-yard touchdown.

The team then moved midfield to being practicing third-and-short situations, but that occurred just as the media's hour of access to practice ended.

RIFLE REPORTS:

  • A long list of Mountaineers were in the team's green and red jerseys, signaling that their participation in practice was limited or not possibly, respectively, due to injury.

    The green shirts were worn by no fewer than six WVU players. They included safety Sidney Glover, linebacker J.T. Thomas, tight end Will Johnson and defensive lineman Josh Taylor.

    Taylor was participating in early parts of the scrimmage with the second-team defense.

    Wide receiver Bradley Starks was in a red jersey and only allowed to pedal a stationary bike while his teammates worked on the field.

  • While the vast majority of West Virginia players were in the team's gold pants with their thigh pads in place for a physical practice, there was one notable exception.

    Freshman offensive lineman Quinton Spain is still in the midst of the "acclimatization" period mandated by NCAA rules. He stood out among the crowd of players in the team's stretch lines -- not just because of his 6-foot-6, 330-pound frame, but because he was in the blue shorts players wear on days they aren't in full pads.

    By rule, Spain will be permitted to go into full pads starting Friday.

  • While results from the practice field should always be taken with a grain of salt, it appears the Mountaineers have two very capable field goal kickers this season.

    Presumptive starter Tyler Bitancurt continued to look solid. He made four of five attempts in an early period of practice, missing only a 41-yard kick from the right hash, which he pulled wide to the left.

    Corey Smith was perfect on his four field goal attempts, and had a good day punting the ball as well. With punters backed up deep in their own end zone, he managed to just get one kick off before it would have been blocked, and it sailed 48 yards in the air and had plenty of hang time.

    Fifth-year senior Gregg Pugnetti, competing with Smith for the starting punting job, also was largely impressive, with his best kick 49 yards and hanging in the air for what seemed like an eternity.

    Both avoided the shanks that had characterized their first week of work, but both also occasionally didn't quite get the distance on their punts that they are capable of. Each kicker had at least one punt of under 40 yards in the air, but they managed to avoid the sort of "line drive" punts that can make a coverage team's work difficult.


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