WVU Spring Football Practice: Drills And Details
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There’s more than just a new coaching staff for the West Virginia football team. With the turnover comes a new approach to many aspects of program, including drills (not to mention media access) to spring practice. BlueGoldNews.com was on hand for the entire two-plus hours on the practice field, getting a look at many of the new drills, techniques and points of emphasis being made by the staff.
This early in the spring, teaching on the most basic of fundamentals was at the fore. Coaches worked on stance, initial positioning and “get-off,” both individually and with two- and three-man groupings. Tackling and blocking technique, at this early stage using yoga balls, rolling doughnut pads and the like, was also a feature.
One example of the early drills is illustrated by the clip below, where defensive coordinator Vic Koenning demonstrated the angle of attack, footwork and hand positioning he is looking for in shedding blocks.
This process was repeated many times, from footwork with quarterbacks to offensive line combinations to initial paths for three-man groups of what will initially make up the punt coverage team. Reps, with near-constant teaching, was evident at many of the individual stations scattered the length of the practice field.
There is a mix of familiar drills, and new ones with the actions slightly modified but with the same end result in sight. There’s the familiar turnover circuit, but with players following different paths as defenders try to rip the ball away. There’s even one designed specifically for the defensive line, where two linemen come off the ball, engage blockers, then get to a ballcarrier in the scrum and try to rip the ball away. Success is met with big cheers, and more encouragement from the coaches.
This staff really emphasizes staying low, using the “chute” to keep players low out of their stance on initial steps. Here’s one application:
In the middle of it all – in reality, everywhere on the field – moves head coach Neal Brown, equipped with a headset. When he activates it – usually between practice periods – the music cuts off, and everyone on the field can hear him. That’s a great use of a simple technology, as he doesn’t have to worry about his players hearing him at the other end of the field. His instructions are short and sweet, announcing the next period’s drills and where a certain position group might need to be. Then he’s off again, visiting every group to observe and offer his own coaching points.
The new staff also makes sure to keep some fun injected into the proceedings. At one point, match races are set up between the offense and the defense, with the object being to run downfield, find a football hidden in a pile of bags, then return it to the starting line. Austin Kendall won this sprint for the offense, but Hakeem Bailey clinched the series win with a splash technique to find the ball for the defense, resulting in a big celebration and a few pushups for the the losers.
These sorts of things might seem simple, but they can go a long way in keeping practice fun and the players engaged.