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March 12, 2013

Spring Practice Report: Day 2





It was a cold and dreary afternoon at Mountaineer Field Tuesday afternoon as the West Virginia Mountaineers took to the field for their second practice of the spring session.

In the 30-minute open media session, the Mountaineers spent most of their time working on special teams.

Downfield blocking and specialist work dominated the session, as the Mountaineers continued to work without pads in the infancy of the spring.

Following a brisk stretch, the Mountaineers broke off into individual special team groups, with the field goal unit splitting off with Coaches Dana Holgorsen, Tony Gibson and Joe DeForest. Like Sunday, Josh Lambert was seen taking a majority of field goal attempts, with Michael Molinari as the holder. Lambert again appeared to be fairly accurate, connecting on most of his tries in the brief session.

Coach Lonnie Galloway was seen during this period working with Jordan Thompson and Andrew Buie on punt returns, with the duo fielding punt sent up from a machine firing balls into the air every few seconds. Both Thompson and Buie looked comfortable in the role, doing the entire five minutes of work without dropping a single attempt.

Quarterbacks were also separated from the group at the beginning of the open practice session with each of the four-man ensemble taking their turn throwing the football nets. None of the participants stood out above the rest on Tuesday and the group appeared to be more erratic than on the opening day with passes sailing too high and low of the intended target.

Shannon Dawson once again oversaw his unit through basic foot work drills and a special guest in former West Virginia quarterback Pat White watched the group compete while talking with another former player in running back Shawne Alston.

The group once again split up in the later session with Ford Childress and Logan Moore being watched by Holgorsen and Paul Millard and Chavas Rawlins with Dawson. Each had some good throws, but then come back with some inaccurate ones as well.

Meanwhile, both the offensive and defensive lines continued to work on the fundamentals of coming off the line. Coach Ron Crook had his offensive linemen gathered during this period, focusing on footwork when blocking in various directions. Again, without the pads the big men were unable to get very physical, therefore Crook continued to stress simple fundamental to his young group.

Hindered by the same constraints as the other coaches, Eric Slaughter had to work with his defensive linemen on fundamentals off the line. The coach had a set of trash cans lined up opposite of his players, simulating the opposing offensive line, and stressed to his unit the importance of hitting the gaps they create with authority.

"It's hammetime," Slaughter shouted at one point, stressing the importance of powering through the gaps to his players.

In his second day on the field for the Mountaineers, Coach JaJuan Seider also had a few of his running backs to the side during special team drills. Working primarily with the younger group of backs, Seider focused in on ball security, running drills to test the control on the ball in the trenches.

Special teams work dominated the session with cornerbacks and wide receivers taking turns with cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell on coming off the edge blocking kicks. Holgorsen watched the group as Mitchell instructed his players on how to attack the ball off the foot.

"Don't be scared of it," Holgorsen said as one player timidly went in for the block.

Observing Mitchell work with his cornerbacks later in the period, he demanded quite a bit out of his group while instructing each of his players through the correct technique while back pedaling. Mitchell challenged his group to give the best effort on each drill.

"Ricky you've got to gain some depth on your back pedal, but it's better than it was the other day," he said.
But the technician also had a soft side, as one of his players was going through the back pedaling he imitated him by dancing back and forth and simply saying.

"Too many moving parts," he said.

Towards the end of practice the coaches got hold of their individual units, working through basic drills. Coach Gibson focused on fundamental backpedaling with his safeties, which is all the media was able to see before the open session was over.

On the injury front, Wes Tonkery, Dante Campbell and Terrell Chestnut sported red jerseys while Jared Barber was back on the field after sitting out Sunday. Doug Rigg and Jewone Snow wore green but participated in the drills, and Brandon Jackson was spotted in gray sweats on the exercise bike.

On the recruiting side Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway trio outside linebacker Brenon Thrift, safety Delvon Randall and athlete Zaihe Regus were in attendance.

The Mountaineers return to the practice field Thursday for their third practice of the spring.

Coach Dana Holgorsen will address the media at 6:30 this evening. Coverage of his press conference and the remainder of spring practice will continue throughout the season on WVSports.com.


NOTES:

On Sunday, Jared Barber was in a medical no practice jersey with a tight hamstring. Today Barber looked to full go back with the defense in the tradition blue practice jersey. Barber will compete throughout the spring to start at linebacker alongside Isaiah Bruce and Doug Rigg, with guys like Nick Kwiatkoski and Hodari Christian.


Early enrollee Malik Greaves is another physical guy to play next to Karl Joseph in the secondary. Greaves was taking some tough coaching from Brian Mitchell during a drill and then responded well to it. If Greaves can continue to be coachable throughout the spring, he may find himself at least competing for playing time.


Offensively, running back Dustin Garrison is moving fluently catching the football. Even though no one is in pads, it seems as if Garrison has an extra bounce in his step again. In route drills he caught a swing pass out of the backfield from Paul Millard and was able to show a burst of speed after the catch. Take for it what it is worth, but Garrison looks fully healthy for the first time since injuring his knee in Orange Bowl practice over a year ago.

****

Staff writer Greg Madia contributed to this article.


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