It was a bright and sunny Thursday afternoon in Morgantown, W.Va. The birds were chirping, a calm breeze was blowing, and smiles dotted the landscape throughout town. All of these good vibes crashing down at once could only mean one thing - football has returned.
With a crucial season on the horizon, and the Crimson Tide knocking at the door, the West Virginia Mountaineers took to the field at Milan Puskar Stadium for the first practice of fall camp. And while it was not a padded practice, the energy and enthusiasm was evident across the entire field.
In the 30-minute open media session, the West Virginia coaches ran their respective players through a number of fundamental drills, helping to knock off the cobwebs from the long offseason.
Once practice commenced, individual work was highlighted among each respective group. Quarterbacks occupied the south end zone, flanked by the offensive line. The media's attention first gravitated in this direction for obvious reasons - the status of Clint Trickett.
Since being named starter early in the summer by Head Coach Dana Holgorsen, questions arose regarding his health. Following a sometimes tumultuous 2013 season, which Trickett played injured throughout, an offseason surgery left many to wonder whether his arm would be up to par by the time fall camp arrived.
While it was only a number of fundamental drills, Trickett quieted those questions early in the session. Throwing at a number of targets, and later working with receivers and running backs in drills, Trickett showed the best arm strength and accuracy anyone had seen since late into last pre season. Even when focusing on deep patterns, Trickett showed little ill-effect, flinging the ball with the best of them.
Beyond Trickett, the remainder of the quarterback corps followed suit with solid work in the drills. Even true freshman William Crest, making his first appearance in a West Virginia uniform, seemed to absorb as much information as possible following every drill. Crest would bombard Coach Shannon Dawson with a number of inquires, while trying to shorten the learning curve he has entering camp.
Elsewhere on offense, the running backs worked through a number of drills at full strength. Following his recent arrest, and later dismissal of all charges, Wendell Smallwood was working with the running backs through all drills. Smallwood, however, was not listed on the updated depth chart at running back but was included as a kick returner.
Even though it was only the first practice, and padless nonetheless, Holgorsen would not allow his offensive unit to slack. The coach was in the middle of handoff drills, yelling at his players to keep pushing the pace.
"Full speed, full speed!" Holgorsen would yell, hoping to get a sense of urgency out of the squad even in early practice workouts.
On the opposite end of the field, the defense was split among their respective position coaches, with drills focusing primarily on technique off the line, reading the offense pre-snap, and basic backpedaling drills.
While it was the first practice, where little can be determined regarding overall improvement, defensive end Christian Brown impressed those in attendance with his size and effort throughout the drills. Brown appears to have been putting in a lot of work this offseason in the weight room, and it shows with an impressive look on the field.
Also of note, despite putting in significant time on the field last season, defensive lineman Dontrill Hyman was not included in the updated depth chart. You can view the entire depth chart at this link..
The Mountaineers also worked on punt coverage early in the practice, with Vernon Davis, Shelton Gibson, Jordan Thompson, Mario Alford, and Daryl Worley back to receive Nick O'Toole's booming kicks.
West Virginia also appeared to enter the season with few injuries. Jared Barber was the only player wearing a red jersey during today's practice.
Coach Holgorsen will be addressing the media tonight at 7 regarding today's practice and the opening of fall camp. The Mountaineers will return to practice tomorrow, with the next open media session Monday evening.
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