MORGANTOWN - West Virginia had its shortest and latest practice of the spring Sunday, but probably got more out of it than any of the eight that preceded it.That's because for the first time, the Mountaineers tried to put everything together to see how it all looked."We rolled the ball out and played some football,'' coach Dana Holgorsen said.And at the end of a 72-play scrimmage, Holgorsen seemed to like what he saw.Yes, it's difficult to judge a scrimmage as far as winners or losers are concerned, but progress is being made."We put our guys in a bunch of situations,'' Holgorsen said. "Offensively, I was happy with how we did on third down, and we've been doing our score zone area for about a week and improved on that. Defensively, we kind of took a step back on that, but it's kind of a process of spring ball."But we got a lot of snaps where we can line up and look at it and see how it looks. Now we'll study the film and get lined back up on Tuesday.''Through West Virginia's first eight practices of the spring, drills primarily consisted of individual work and brief situational scrimmages. On Sunday, the team delayed practice until early in the evening in order to give players and coaches more time to themselves on Easter Sunday, and then basically went straight into the scrimmage, which lasted just over an hour.What did Holgorsen like the most? Well, he didn't hesitate when asked.
"The running game was good,'' he said. "Shawne Alston looked as good as I've ever seen him. He's hard to tackle.''Holgorsen also praised the work of running back Andrew Buie, as well as fullbacks Ryan Clarke and newly converted Donovan Miles, who moved over from linebacker last week when Matt Lindamood elected to retire."And so we're doing something right up front, too, from a blocking standpoint,'' Holgorsen said.More than any technical aspects of either the offense or the defense, however, what Holgorsen was perhaps most pleased with was the competitive nature of practice. He mentioned that last Tuesday the offense won most of the battles in those third-down and scoring zone situations, then the defense came back and won the day in similar short scrimmage situations Thursday."Typically in the spring, whoever gets beat in the last practice comes back with a little bit more motivation the next time,'' he said. "And I think offensively that's what we did [Sunday].''That competitiveness shows up in individual battles, too, where tempers can sometimes flare up, but Holgorsen sees nothing wrong with that as long as it ends quickly and doesn't carry into the locker room.
He specifically mentioned one-on-one battles among some of his best players who tend to battle one another every day, like receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey against defensive backs Brodrick Jenkins and Darwin Cook, or guard Jeff Braun against nose guard Jorge Wright."Watching those guys compete is something that has to happen to have any chance at all of getting better,'' Holgorsen said. "Who wins and who loses isn't necessarily the point. It's not a competition. It's make yourself better, make your unit better, make your team better.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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