It truly was "spring" practice for the West Virginia football team Tuesday, as the Mountaineers took to the turf at Milan Puskar Stadium for their 10th practice of the season with welcoming clear skies and warm temperatures.
In the 30 minute practice session open to the media, the Mountaineers continued to focus primarily on special teams work, with a touch of fundamental drills sprinkled in for both the offense and defense near its conclusion.
As always, the practice started out with a bulk of the team conjugating at midfield for pre-practice stretching. Meanwhile, the quarterbacks, in their usual spot along the south end zone, worked with Coach Shannon Dawson on receiving snaps under center, faking the handoff and throwing accurate passes on the run. It was a basic series of drills to loosen up the signal-callers for what would be a busy day of action.
Following a brief stretch, the team meandered towards the south end zone for field goal drills. For the first time in a couple practices, Josh Lambert appeared to struggle finding his range, with his kicks lacking the typical power we have become accustomed to this spring. Lambert recovered, however, missing only one kick wide among four or five attempts.
While the focus was on field goal work for much of the team, a group of three receivers found themselves fielding punts on the sideline with the aid of a machine. As with much of the spring, Vernon Davis and Jordan Thompson were among the three present, being joined by Connor Arlia in what appeared to be his first attempt at returning this spring.
Arlia did not remain with the return group for long, however, as the team broke field goal practice and transitioned into punt coverage and returns. The receiver was replaced by Dustin Garrison among the return corps, joining Davis and Thompson for the drills.
Like last Thursday, the punt drills focused primarily on the fundamentals of blocking - both shedding the blocker and maintaining contact. A bulk of the coaching staff was on hand working with the players in half-speed drills, placing the lessons of fundamentals into action.
With 20 minutes of special teams work in the books, the Mountaineers transitioned into individual drills, with Coaches Tony Gibson and Keith Patterson holding court with their respective units in the north end zone.
Tackling was the primary focus for Gibson's crew today, as the returning safeties coach worked with his players with the aid of a pad. Each safety would take turns tackling his stationary teammate into the pad from various angles, alternating who would be taking the hits and who would delve them out.
The focus of the drill was ingraining "wrapping up" the ball carrier into the minds of Gibson's unit, with the coach taking time to direct his players on various missteps throughout the session.
Coach Patterson, on the other hand, worked with his linebacker unit on "pinching in" a ball-carrier to make the tackle, with a series of cones representing various blockers. Where Gibson wanted to focus on the fundamentals of tackling, Patterson keyed in on footwork and reading the ballcarrier's eyes to determine the next step for his players.
The offense also gathered in their respective units during this period, with wide receivers catching passes from the quarterbacks through various routes. With Logan Moore switching to wide receiver in the past week, Coach Dawson played the role of quarterback in a group with Chavas Rawlins, running the drills along with the freshman.
Holgorsen spent a portion of the practice observing the quarterbacks as they went through the drills, even challenging them at one point simply telling them, "You are all on scholarship!"
The quarterbacks then practiced throwing the ball to different levels, with each signal caller given a target at the snap and all three simultaneously throwing to their intended wide receiver.
Running backs coach JaJuan Seider spent time working with Cody Clay and Will Johnson on blocking techniques during the portion of practice where most of the roster was focusing on special teams work. Seider worked on the players getting out of their stance, among other things.
Miami transfer Vernon Davis stood out with his blue jerseys intermingled with the offensive white shirts as he worked out at wide receiver during the open portion of practice. Davis went through the drills and was seen even taking one-on-one reps and catching passes from wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway. Davis had been playing primarily at cornerback before today, but it's unknown if this will be a permanent move or one that was made for depth purposes.
On the injury front, junior running back Andrew Buie was spotted in red with a noticeable limp before the practice as he made his way up to the Caperton Indoor Facility with the rest of the injured players. Jewone Snow was spotted wearing green yet again, but participated in the drills along with Avery Williams.