In the final stop of the Mountaineers' spring tour of the state, Coach Dana Holgorsen brought his troops to the capital of Charleston Saturday afternoon, opening up the practice on a calm, yet cool April day for the West Virginia faithful.
Performing in front of a sizeable crowd at the University of Charleston Stadium, the Mountaineers ran through a number of basic drills, and a handful of live action plays in preparation for next week's Gold-Blue Spring Game.
Following an initial stretch and conditioning work, the Mountaineers brought the entire team together for the traditional Oklahoma Drill. As always, a quarterback would hand the ball off to a ball-carrier, who would then follow a lead blocker around the target defender in a confined area.
Throughout the drill, energy remained at its highest level for both the players and fan. Ohhs and ahhs rained from the stands as pads continued to pop on the field, as players held little back against their teammates in the highly physical drill.
One such hit that brought the crowd to its feet occurred near the middle of the drill. A massive hit from K.J. Myers to Jacky Marcellus laid out the young Marcellus and sent the surrounding team into a complete frenzy.
With the team firmly warmed up, players broke off from the large group work into individual drills. The defense line occupied the north end zone of Laidley Field with Coach Tom Bradley, working on quickly getting off the block and into the backfield.
Early on; however, Bradley was not too keen on the effort he was seeing from his unit.
"You guys are dumber than me, and that's something that's hard to do," Bradley said following a rough initial rep at the drill.
Eventually, the defensive line began to get into a rhythm as its coach stood watch front-and-center.
Meanwhile, a bulk of the squad collaborated at midfield for a sideline-to-sideline drill, testing open field tackling at both the first and second level. A ball carrier would take the handoff beside a lead blocker with the goal of breaking through two levels of defenders across the field.
Throughout the course of the drill; however, very few backs managed to find any room across midfield. A big cut by Dustin Garrison at the second level allowed him to scamper through to the opposite sidelines, but for the latter few minutes of the drill success was hard to come across.
Wide receiver coach Lonnie Galloway even showed obvious frustration at the blocking of several receivers throughout the drill, helping to confirm the defense's ability to win the day in this instance.
Following the big convergence at midfield, the team worked in more specified individual drills with their respective position coaches. Running backs and quarterbacks occupied the south end zone, working initially on zone read drills before switching up to swing routes and other short passes.
Much like the early practices this spring, the quarterback play was both up and down throughout the course of the team period as Howard once again repped with the first team while Millard filled his role with the second unit.
Howard was able to make some strong throws early in the session, but struggled as the play went on holding the ball at times and not making quick decisions, as he even drew the ire of Holgorsen who pulled him out of the rep after an apparent miscommunication between the pair. However, to his credit the junior college transfer bounced back with a strong drive to lead the Mountaineers for a field goal.
Millard started hot out of the gates, leading the second team offense against the defense down the field but he wasn't quite as sharp as he was in Morgantown a week ago during the spring practice. However, out of the three quarterbacks Logan Moore had the best toss of the day down the sideline for a 34-yard touchdown strike to Devonte Mathis on a 3rd and 16 play.
Al Rasheed Benton continued to look strong on defense, making several tackles in the backfield and a sack against the second team unit. Wendell Smallwood also had several big plays both in the running and passing game for the first team offense continuing to show his versatility in the Charles Sims-esque role.
Dustin Garrison also put together his strongest effort of the spring, as he looked very inspired during the team session at the end of practice.
The first team offense consisted of Howard flanked by both Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood with Cody Clay serving as the tight end and full back. The wide receiver group remained Mario Alford, Daikiel Shorts and Kevin White and the offensive line was the same as it's been throughout the course of spring drills.
On defense, the first team was Kyle Rose, Darrien Howard and Dontrill Hyman up front, Isaiah Bruce, Nick Kwiatkoski and Brandon Golson manning the linebacker position. The spur was played by Jarrod Harper, while Karl Joseph and Jeremy Tyler lined up at the safety spots and Daryl Worley and Ishmael Banks were the cornerbacks.
The second team offense led by Millard included Rushel Shell, Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison in the backfield, and a combination of Jacky Marcellus, KJ Myers, Devonte Mathis, Jordan Thompson and Ricky Rogers at wide receiver. The offensive line group from left to right was Mike Calicchio, Stone Underwood, Tony Matteo, Grant Lingafelter and Sylvester Townes, although Marcell Lazard also saw work at tackle.
The defensive group was Eric Kinsey, Christian Brown and Noble Nwachukwu up front, Sean Walters, Al-Rasheed Benton and Edward Muldrow at the linebacker spots and KJ Dillon working at SPUR. The secondary consisted of Malik Greaves and Ricky Rumph at safety and Brandon Napoleon and Terrell Chestnut as the cornerbacks.
West Virginia will conclude spring drills next Saturday inside Milan Puskar Stadium for the annual Gold-Blue game at 1 p.m.