Room to Improve After First Open Practice

The West Virginia football team opened up its sixth practice of the spring to fans and members of the media Saturday afternoon at Wheeling Island Stadium.

The Mountaineers broke away from the usual routine at the beginning of the practice when it's open to the media. After stretching, West Virginia split into groups and started Oklahoma drills - putting the running backs against the linebackers, the Mountaineer offensive line against the defensive line and the wide receivers and defensive backs against one another.

From there, they broke into groups and started working through a lot of special teams drills before spending a majority of the two-hour session working on individual position-specific drills.

During the special teams portion of the day, a lot of attention was paid to the return team while Michael Molinari handled kickoff duties. Wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway was working with Wendell Smallwood, Rushel Shell, Mario Alford, Jacky Marcellus, Daryl Worley and Keishawn Richardson as this drill went on.

A lot of eyes were on the quarterback position during individual drills as well as the extended team period at the end of the practice in which West Virginia lined up 11-on-11 and worked in live game situations.

Both Skyler Howard and Paul Millard showed some flashes of brilliance throughout the practice, but also showed plenty of room for improvement.

Howard, a junior college transfer, had some good zip on his passes but struggled to find a lot of consistency completing passes and threw an interception to Daryl Worley. With that said, the sophomore was able to lead the first-team offense (which he took all the snaps with Saturday) fairly efficiently for the most part and looked like the top signal caller for the day.

On one drive, Howard stayed composed in the pocket, stepped up and found an open Kevin White to get WVU into the red zone a few plays before underthrowing a fade route that was also picked off by Worley and intended for Mario Alford then fumbled a snap on the goal line.

That's not to say Millard didn't also do some things well. The senior was able to put the ball only where his receivers could catch it multiple times throughout the individual drills but failed to lead the WVU second-team offense on a touchdown drive during the live team session and threw an interception to Edward Muldrow.

During that team session, Howard took the snaps with the first team at quarterback while Wendell Smallwood, Rushel Shell, Dreamius Smith, Dustin Garrison, Andrew Buie, Cody Clay and Elijah Wellman all took turns rotating in the WVU backfield. Alford, Kevin White and Daikiel Shorts took the majority of the snaps with the first team at receiver, while the offensive line was Adam Pankey, Quinton Spain, Tyler Orlosky, Mark Glowinski and Marquis Lucas from left to right.

On the defensive side of the ball, Eric Kinsey, Christian Brown and Kyle Rose started out on the defensive line with Isaiah Bruce, Nick Kwiatkoski and Brandon Golson at linebacker and Worley, Ishmael Banks, K.J. Dillon, Karl Joseph and Jeremy Tyler making up the defensive backfield.

Josh Lambert had another solid day, making the most of his opportunities throughout the day. During the team session, he made field goals of 40, 38 and 33 yards.

But it was the Mountaineer running back group that headlined the practice Saturday. Arguably the deepest position on the WVU depth chart, the five running backs all got to take snaps with the first team - with Shell and Smith receiving the bulk of the workload.

After not playing in the first four possessions of the team period, Smith took three carries for 30 yards and hurdled his way over the linemen while running through people for the score. Shell also scored the other touchdown of the day two drives later.

The Mountaineer defense made a few big stops when it needed to. Defensive end Dontrill Hyman, who worked mostly with the second team Saturday, was in the backfield a lot and made it tough for the offense to get much on the ground when he was in the game. As usual, Joseph made several big hits from his spot at bandit safety and K.J. Dillon was vocal and made a few big plays.

The second-team offense saw Millard and Logan Moore taking the snaps at quarterback with Jacky Marcellus, Devonte Mathis, K.J. Myers and Ricky Rogers playing receiver. Michael Calicchio, Russell Haughton-James, Tony Matteo, Stone Underwood and Marcell Lazard made up the offensive line for the second team.

The second-team defense consisted of Hyman, Darrien Howard and Noble Nwachukwu up front, Muldrow, Al Rasheed Benton and Hodari Christian and Malik Greaves at linebackers with Terrell Chestnut, Richardson at corner and Ricky Rumph and Jarrod Harper at the safety positions.

The Mountaineers will open up practice again next Saturday in Morgantown.

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