Almost perfect weather met the West Virginia football team as the Mountaineers opened spring 2013 Sunday evening at Milan Puskar Stadium.
During the 30-minute portion open to media the Mountaineers broke up into several groups as the familiar music blasted over the speakers, with the quarterbacks working on their footwork with offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. Each of the four signal callers in Paul Millard, Ford Childress, Chavas Rawlins and Logan Moore, had their moments during the basic drill work, but that battle isn't anywhere close to reaching a decision on who will take snaps this season.
The spring season opened up, as with every practice, with the entire team, sans quarterbacks, congregating at mid-field for a brief stretch before practice. Coach Shannon Dawson, who was named quarterback coach in the offseason to replace the departing Jake Spavital, worked individually with the signal callers during this period on play action foot drills.
One note is that freshman Rawlins was sporting No. 12 as opposed to the No. 5 he was listed in the earlier media guide. And much like he was in summer camp last year, the freshman was inconsistent spinning the ball sometimes on target and others completely off.
Baltimore (Md.) Dunbar 2014 quarterback William Crest observed the group as they went through drill work and even mimicked them as they went through their throws. In addition to watching the quarterbacks, he also spent a majority of his time talking with 2014 Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway wide receiver and West Virginia commitment Ricky Rogers.
After the early conditioning, the team broke up into their own individual units, with special teams work dominating the action on the field. A bulk of the coaching staff, including Head Coach Dana Holgorsen, worked with the kicking unit, consisting of Josh Lambert and Michael Molinari. Both Lambert and Molinari took shots at the uprights from various lengths, with Lambert coming out on top as the most consistent boot during the brief period.
Because it is the first practice, all players were working without pads today, making the individual action in drills rather tame. Linebackers and defensive linemen worked on the other side of the field during special team drills, focusing on blocking field goal and punt attempts. To make up for the lack of hitting allowed, Defensive Coordinator Keith Patterson lined up trash cans to oppose the rushing players.
But the lack of pads did not affect the work being done by Ron Crook. The new offensive line coach worked exclusively with his entire unit for the bulk of practice, placing great emphasis on coming up into blocks out of the three point stance. Crook displayed a great deal of patience with his players, tutoring them on all phases of the process while still maintaining the aggressive attitude most line coaches are known to possess.
Living up to his reputation as a technician, Crook took time to thoroughly explain each drill then wasn't afraid to get on his players when they weren't responding in a way to suit him.
"Accelerate, accelerate," he said.
Another new coach who was making his debut at Mountaineer Field this spring was JaJuan Seider. The former graduate assistant under Bill Stewart grabbed the reins of the running back unit this past week, after the sudden departure of Robert Gillespie.
Seider wasted no time working individually with members of his unit, focusing heavily on fundamentals with Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood while the other backs worked on special teams and receptions. Both Smith and Smallwood caught the ball well out of the backfield, and look the part.
Running backs worked on ball security with Seider taking them through a familiar drill where the backs are paired and each attempt to rip or knock the ball out of each other's hands.
"Get the ball up, security!" he said.
Meanwhile, as the media session began to wind down, Coach Holgorsen took control of quarterback and receiver drills. The four quarterback split into two different groups - Paul Millard and Chavas Rawlins with Coach Dawson and Ford Childress and Logan Moore with Coach Holgorsen - and worked on a variety of routes.
No one quarterback stood out above the others, as the coaches split reps equally amongst the four competitors.
Wide receivers worked on route running and catching the football and coach Lonnie Galloway was getting into his players especially when they happened to drop the ball such as when Terrence Gourdine failed to haul in a deep throw down the sideline.
"You owe me five," referring to pushups.
Holgorsen had already made mention to the physical impressiveness of both Kevin White and Daikiel Shorts and that was on display Sunday as both players looked to be imposing. The duo also caught the ball well in the open session.
Players in red Sunday were Jared Barber who suffered a hamstring injury and is expected back in a few days, and the three other players that had been previously announced by Holgorsen in Terrell Chestnut, Dante Campbell and Wes Tonkery.
Several other recruits were in attendance including Alonzo Saxton and several from Good Counsel in Olney, Maryland, along with 2013 signee Marvin Gross from Dunbar. Jeff Braun and J.D. Woods from the 2012 squad also watched the practice from the sidelines.
The Mountaineers will return to practice this Tuesday at 4 p.m., with Dana Holgorsen's weekly press conference following. Coverage will continue on WVSports.com.