Spring Practice Report 7
After a couple weeks of cold, dreary conditions, warmer weather greeted the West Virginia football team Thursday in Morgantown, as the Mountaineers took to the field in their seventh practice of the spring season.
In the 30 session open to the media, the Mountaineers primarily focused on fundamental special teams work, throwing in a few drills among the skill possession as the practice winded down.
Per usual, the session opened up with the team gathered at midfield for a pre-practice stretch. Throughout this period, the quarterbacks found themselves at their usual spot in the south end zone, working on various passing drills with Coach Shannon Dawson.
Today, the third-year offensive coordinator worked with his three signal-callers on maintaining a quick release, with an emphasis on accuracy. Dawson would toss each player three balls in rapid repetition, with the quarterbacks throwing as soon as each pigskin touched their hands.
While it is hard to make a determination on a simple quick release drill, it appeared that Paul Millard had the speed and accuracy down pat. The rising junior connected into the net on all but one pass in his three attempts at the drill. Ford Childress, however, was not far behind, showcasing his own strong arm and quick trigger.
With stretching complete, the team drifted to the south end zone for a series of five field goal attempts from various areas. Unlike last practice, which was hindered by a series of low kicks and a bad snap, Josh Lambert regained his composure, connecting on all five attempts with booming kicks.
Following the short kicking session, Coaches Dana Holgorsen and Joe DeForest split potential special team players among three stations on the field for a lesson in shedding blocks on kick returns. The lessons focused on cutting past blockers across the field, throwing away blockers to rush the returner and getting past the first level of coverage.
The drills were a new addition to special teams work, with every position coach manning a station. Of note, Coaches Lonnie Galloway and JaJuan Seider seemed to be the most hands-on, enthusiastic throughout the drills, constantly stressing proper hands placement, working with each player individually and even placing themselves in the drill for a demonstration.
During special teams work, both the offensive and defensive lines were to the side in both end zones, with Coach Eric Slaughter working his boys on the blocking sled. The coach placed emphasis on footwork and hand placement as the linemen burst out of their stance, slamming into the sled.
Special teams work concluded at midfield, as Coach DeForest gathered his team in a huddle at logo to de-brief on the session.
"These three techniques are the key," DeForest explained to the team, stressing the importance of the fundamentals taught in Thursday's session.
Position drills were next on the rundown, with both offense and defense matching up against an opposing unit.
Wide receivers and defensive backs found themselves in the north end zone continuing work on wide receiver screens. Two receivers and two defenders lined up opposite of each other as Childress tossed the ball out into the flat for an open receiver. The ball carrier then turned upfield, attempting to follow the blocks set by his teammates into the end zone.
As with previous practices, receiver Jordan Thompson proved to be the most elusive of the wideouts. The rising sophomore provided headaches for the defenders, as he was able to use his speed on the outside, to the dismay of the defenders.
"Don't let him get outside!" Coach Brian Mitchell would continue to yell, unhappy with the performance of his players against Thompson.
Another interesting observation from the drill was the participation of Logan Moore. After being brought up to Morgantown last season from Fairmont State to play quarterback, Moore has apparently made the switch to wide receiver, catching balls, blocking and participating in all drills.
The defenders bested the wideouts on one particular play thanks to the efforts of Hodari Christian. The freshman early-enrollee busted through his blocker on one play before laying out the big Kevin White before the media session ended.
Pat Eger was seen riding a stationary bike on the sidelines throughout the practice as he continues to recover from a nagging injury.
The Mountaineers will return to the practice field this Saturday in a closed practice session. The next open media afternoon will be Tuesday at 4 p.m.