On a windy, yet sunny afternoon in Morgantown, WV Tuesday, the West Virginia Mountaineers took to the football field for their fifth practice of the short spring season.
In the 30 minute session open to members of the media, the Mountaineers focused primarily on shoring up their kicking and punting game, with the specialists finding themselves in the spotlight for much of the evening.
The practice began, as all sessions do, with a brief stretch for the entire squad at midfield. With the players circled and assistant coaches barking orders from the center, the Mountaineers begun to acclimate themselves to the windy environment.
But one typical participant of the pre-practice warmups was conspicuously absent. Head Coach Dana Holgorsen, who normally leads his troops at the onset of every practice, was on the sidelines with Assistant Coach Shannon Dawson and the quarterbacks, running them through a ball security and scrambling drill. The quarterbacks would scramble through giant pylons/tackling dummies, eyes downfield at all times, while Holgorsen and Dawson attempted to swat the ball from their hands and trip them up.
Both coaches and the quarterbacks appeared to have fun with the drills; Holgorsen even laughing uncontrollably on one occasion.
As for their performance, all four quarterbacks appeared to be on even ground, with only one dropped ball from Logan Moore being the only negative of the drill.
Following the stretching, the focus shifted to field goal kicking. With an extremely windy day in Morgantown, many would assume kicker Josh Lambert might struggle adjusting to the conditions.
However, that was far from the case. As with much of the spring, Lambert was perfect on his handful of kick attempts, with a clank off the right upright and through the posts being the only impeded boot.
The team then shifted gears towards punt coverage and returning, with Andrew Buie, Vernon Davis and Jordan Thompson handling the return duties. Because of the windy afternoon, the drills were run with the aid of a punt machine rather than taking like kick attempts.
Because practice is still in its infancy, the team also ran the punt drills at half-speed, focusing more on the fundamental positioning of downfield blocks.
While special teams work was the focus on the field, Coach JaJuan Seider had his running back unit to the side, also placing an emphasis on fundamentals. Along with Dustin Garrison, the young members of the running back corps focused on following a lead blocker after receiving a hand-off from under center.
Being a former football player, and a relatively young age, Seider took a hands-on approach to the drill as well. The former quarterback found himself opposite of the blocking backs in the drill, leading them in a variety of directions as the runners followed.
Once special teams work concluded, players went into one of three groups on the field for some contact drills. Like Friday, a bulk of the action could be found in the north end zone, as coached Lonnie Galloway and Tony Gibson put their receivers and defensive backs through a wide receiver screen drill.
For the second-straight practice, the defense appeared to get the upper hand on the receivers, to the dismay of Coach Galloway.
"Quit tiptoeing around! Catch the ******* ball and accelerate!" Coach Galloway screamed at his receivers, frustrated by a lack of effort off the line.
In one of the reps, Will Johnson attempted to take on Darwin Cook but missed the block leading to a punishing hit on Jordan Thompson. Wide receivers coach Galloway let the redshirt freshman know that he missed the block and promptly sent him back out on the field for another rep, where he fared much better the second time around.
The Mountaineers then broke into drill-work with units, with the quarterback lining up or in shotgun behind offensive lineman and then handing the ball off to the running back. From there, the offensive line would be charged with blocking the defensive lineman and the linebacker. Dreamius Smith displayed the ability to fall forward and get yards as Seider had mentioned in the interview session Friday.
Doug Rigg shed the green jersey he was wearing early in the practice and stripped the ball from one of the running backs drawing praise from Holgorsen as the head man simply said, "who was that guy?"
Near the tail-end of the session, Wendell Smallwood busted through the hole untouched and ran into Korey Harris on the opposite side where the freshman received a little bump from the defender. Smallwood's response was to flick the ball back at him and trot back to his respective place in line.
There were no recruits in attendance at Tuesday's practice and practice will resume Thursday at 4 p.m. before taking a hiatus for spring break.