Mountaineers Enter Final Stretch Of Spring Drills
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The test for the last 10 days was on exactly how West Virginia can pass such.
It was, frankly, a lesson on test taking itself. That was, at least in part, an idea behind splitting up the spring drills nearly right down the middle, holding half before the spring break and half after. As the players worked back in, the coaching staff wanted to see what they’d retain in a situation similar – though considerably shorter – than coming off the summer conditioning program and readying for fall camp.
“I think it’s going to work well for us because, like anything else, you like the continuity in one regard but also, when you split it in half, it allows the guys to get fresh again and see what they can retain,” WVU defensive line coach Bruce Tall said. “It’s the same thing. They’ve got to learn how to retain from leaving spring ball and returning in the summer. So, this will show us, even though it’s obviously a bigger gap, how well guys can retain from a gap.”
The Mountaineers came off the break on March 18, and thus are into their second week in readying to enter the final stretch of spring drills, which conclude with the April 7 Gold-Blue game. At this point, the coaches have a grasp on what was retained and what wasn’t, and what’s been shown in practice to this point with five sessions, including two scrimmages, remaining.
Along Tall’s defensive front, the keys weren’t so much in establishing starters – after all, nose tackle Lamonte McDougle will miss the entire camp in recovering from offseason shoulder surgery – as trying to forge some depth along the two- and three-deep.
“There’s no question that we’re trying to develop depth because of the guys that we have coming back and the guys that we have working with us right now,” Tall said. “But like I said, we have great energy right now. The guys are working really hard. So, I am excited about how everything’s rolling right now. I think the players see that (playing time is available), and like anything else, any time you give them something that is tangible, they feel like they can accomplish it. There’s no question that they feel like they can make it happen.”
Of now, among the most impressive players as been Darius Stills. The rising sophomore played in nine games a season ago, being used in a smaller role while making one tackle, that coming against Oklahoma State. Stills is currently working with the first team at nose, and will compete with McDougle and perhaps his brother, Dante, for the slot entering the fall.
“Coming in, I didn’t think that he would be ready,” coordinator Tony Gibson said of Stills’ play as a freshman. “He surprised me and he continued to get better. I played him a lot in nickel packages and then towards the end of the year he got some valuable snaps. I really like him, moving him into nose, letting him get that part of it. It’s going to help his toughness a little bit drawing a lot of double teams. It’s a good spot for him right now.
“If we leave him there or move him out to end it really doesn’t matter because he plays nose in our nickel package. We like him, we think he is going to contribute a bunch. He will be considered a starter going into camp, just for the fact that we roll six, seven, eight guys in. Right now, we have nine guys, counting three or four walk-on guys, that are getting a lot of good reps and we have three more freshmen that we signed that are going to come in and be able to help us. We haven’t closed the door on recruiting yet, so we still have two to three scholarships left on defense where we can get a guy if needed.”
Two Deep Along The Defensive Line
Position No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. GP GS Hometown
DE 91 Ezekiel Rose 6-2 275 Sr. 13 3 Clarksdale, Miss.
95 Jeffery Pooler Jr. 6-2 272 r-So. 5 0 Dayton, Ohio
75 Sam Cookman 6-2 236 r-Fr. 0 0 Romney, W.Va.
NT 56 Darius Stills 6-1 288 So. 9 0 Fairmont, W.Va.
90 Brenon Thrift 6-2 290 r-Sr. 0 0 Monroeville, Pa.
89 Connor Barwis 6-0 275 r-Fr. 0 0 Reading, Pa.
Inj. 49 Lamonte McDougle 5-10 302 So. 13 9 Pompano Beach, Fla.
DE 46 Reese Donahue 6-4 271 Jr. 25 13 Ona, W.Va.
87 Stone Wolfley 6-4 262 r-Jr. 14 0 Morgantown, W.Va.
77 Daniel Buchanan 6-4 300 r-Fr. 0 0 Gilbert, W.Va