Observations and insights from West Virginia's initial football practice.
The Mountaineers, picked 11th in the Coaches Poll released today, opened fall drills under excellent conditions inside Milan Puskar Stadium. Focus in the first 30 minutes - the time period allotted media - was on special teams, particularly field goal, PAT, punting and various protections. The first placekick of the season, Tyler Bitancurt's close range chipper, hit the right upright and bounced away. He was successful multiple times from farther out.
The coaches kept the pacing quick, changing drills every five to 10 minutes as players ran through passing, defensive back coverage, route running, ball security, line hand placement, drive and blocking sled and individual non-contact one-on-one drills.
Defensive back Nana Kyeremeh ran with the second team punt unit and took multiple reps with the DBs, jumping into the mix quickly. That might be an indicator he could avoid a redshirt.
Watching Jewone Snow, Dustin Garrison, Doug Rigg and Terence Garvin move, all seemed ok. Garrison ran through a set of bag drills and looked fine. He did wear a knee brace. All had adequate flexibility and none appeared hampered by any pain or injury.
Punter Corey Smith got off several long, booming punts with sufficient hang time. Michael Molinari also looked solid in a fairly impressive session in a no-pressure drill.
Geno Smith appeared sharp, hitting receivers in stride in what were, to be fair, very basic exercises. He seemed to cruise early. Backup Paul Millard seemed to have good snap on throws, and his release was as quick, if not quicker, than Geno on some reps.
First-team punt protectors were Jared Barber, Jewone Snow and Tyler Anderson. Jerry Cooper was the first-team long snapper.
Ivan McCartney worked with the punt return team as a jammer. Returners were Tavon Austin, Jordan Thompson, Travares Copeland, J.D. Woods and Avery Williams.
Bill Bedenbaugh worked the first team line through hip explosion, hand placement, getting off an initial block and into the second level, through the driving sled and on footwork. The defensive line drills were similar, with an emphasis on staying low, keeping arm extension so the opposing lineman doesn't get into the body, drive sled work and hand placement and rip/swim drills.
Linebackers and defensive backs worked pass coverage, hip flips, ball read and reaction, drop steps, turn-and-gos, getting off blocks and exploding into ball carriers (sans contact) and other drills.
WVU will hold four two-a-day practices. Dates are Aug. 8, 10, 13 and 15. Sports Info did not release dates for scrimmages. Media will not be allowed to view any scrimmages.
RBs ran through bag drills, alone and with a simulated lead blocker, and worked keeping the ball tucked and up into the chest.
Offensive lineman Mike Calicchio, 6-9, 325 lbs., who was with West Virginia last fall but absent from spring drills for unknown reasons, was back on the field today.
Practice is closed Friday and Saturday. There is no practice Sunday. Monday's practice is again open for the first 30 minutes.