After a long, wet summer throughout much of West Virginia, the skies were clear and sunny, welcoming the West Virginia football squad to the turf of Milan Puskar Stadium for the first practice of 2013.
In the 30-minute session open to the media, the Mountaineers focused primarily on fundamental techniques within each position, as all players took to the field without pads, but sporting the new flat-color helmets.
When the media first emerged from the tunnel at Mountaineer Field, the typical sight of pre-practice conditioning welcomed them. But attention quickly shifted to the south end zone sidelines. While Coach Shannon Dawson worked with quarterbacks in typical passing drills, the surrounding group was abuzz with the old gold and blue debut of Clint Trickett.
Trickett, the junior transfer from Florida State, worked alongside fellow signal callers Ford Childress and Paul Millard, going through the motions in a variety of drills. In the short period Dawson had the quarterbacks on the sideline, the coach tested their abilities with play action, switching focus across the field for quick hits and rolling out of the pocket and throwing in stride. In a similar tone to Coach Dana Holgorsen, all three passers looked rather solid throughout the drills, with, shockingly, no one player standing out over the others.
While the quarterbacks found their rhythm on the sidelines, the team broke conditioning and transitioned into special teams work. Offensive linemen and specialists worked with Coach Joe DeForest in the south end zone, practicing basic field goals, with the remainder of the special teams group working with Coach Holgorsen, Brian Mitchell and Tony Gibson on punt coverage. Again, the team was limited on what they could work on without pads, so basic fundamentals were a focus.
Following special teams work, the Mountaineers splintered into their individual positions for more focused work with their position coach. Wide receivers were run through the gauntlet by Coach Lonnie Galloway, pushing the players through cone drills, focusing on cuts and burst off the line.
Running backs focused primarily on ball protection, with Coach Jajuan Seider banging having players beat on the ball carrier and try to rip out the rock.
"You better not drop my ball or y'all's ***** will be rolling," Seider screamed, trying to motivate him players to push through the drill.
Near the tail end of practice the defense went to the opposite end of the stadium and practiced running onto the field and lining up, only to run into a single file, drop down, pick themselves up and run off the field into a huddle. Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson challenged his unit to get on and off the field, and line up quickly. The first group that ran on the field consisted of DE Kyle Rose, NG Shaq Rowell, DT Will Clarke, BUCK Dozie Ezemma, ILB Nick Kwiatkoski, ILB Isaiah Bruce, STAR Wes Tonkery, SS Darwin Cook, FS Karl Joseph, CB Travis Bell and CB Brodrick Jenkins.
Punt returners for the day were junior college transfers Mario Alford and Ronald Carswell, along with Miami transfer Vernon Davis, true freshman Jacky Marcellus and Jordan Thompson.
Offensive lineman Adam Pankey and true freshman wide receiver Shelton Gibson both were spotted in red jerseys and did not participate in the practice, instead spending the open session walking around the stadium and working on the exercise bike.
Junior college prospects Brandon Golson and Dontrill Hyman were both spotted working out with their respective groups during the course of the practice.
Both Darrien Howard and Isaac McDonald were listed on the roster handed out to media, but we did not spot either of the true freshmen participating during the course of the 30-minute session open to media members Thursday evening.
West Virginia continues fall camp tomorrow, but the session is closed to the media with only an interview session with players set for the A.M.
WVSports.com will have more coverage including Holgorsen's 7:15 p.m. media briefing later tonight.