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April 15, 2011

Offense productive in redzone on day eight

It started to actually look like spring for practice number eight inside the confines of Mountaineer Field, as the sun was shining down on players during the early morning session. But that did not stop the pads from popping and the overall theme of physical play that has been prevalent for much of the spring.

Players on both sides of the ball were going at it in live drills on the day before the first scrimmage of the spring.

A day after WVSports.com's Jim Laise first reported that Bradley Starks will miss the remainder of the spring with a shoulder injury, many of the young wide receivers rose to the challenge.

"It has a major impact because we need Bradley out there because he's one of our better wide receivers and he's a leader out there," Junior Quarterback Geno Smith said. "Other guys get a chance to step up and hopefully they can do something."

Smith had a couple of nice throws including a perfectly placed fade pattern from around the ten-yard line to Ivan McCartney, who made a leaping catch over true freshman cornerback Avery Williams.

"Just being as sharp as I can be. Communicating with the receivers and the offensive line and being as sharp and as positive a leader as I can be out there," Smith said.

But Sticks wasn't done.

He also was on the receiving end of another toss from Smith on a slant pattern where he beat his man to the inside for another two-yard touchdown.

It's a continuation of the plays McCartney has made throughout the spring, but according to the talented sophomore he still has a long-ways to go.

"It's more than just being in the endzone," McCartney said. "I've got a lot of things I need to work on - blocking, body language, attitude - there's a lot of things I feel like I need to work on. I feel like I can help the team out with no mistakes."

Stedman Bailey made perhaps the play of the day with the final play in live drills, when he made a spectacular leaping grab and managed to stay in bounds over cornerback Brantwon Bowser who had good coverage on the play.

Tavon Austin also was able to get in the action with a couple of nice catches over the middle, where he was able to utilize his speed and maneuverability in the open field to gain extra yardage.

"I feel comfortable because I only play one position now," he said. "I've been doing a lot of route running so I feel comfortable right now."

Vernard Roberts made a nice catch and run on a screen pass that would have scored had it not been blown dead, while Shawne Alston took a hand off from about five yards out and shook the tackle of Qudral Forte to walk into the endzone.

Paul Millard continued to take the second-team reps at quarterback and had a couple of nice throws over the middle including a bullet to Tyler Urban who managed to adjust to the ball and hold onto it for about a 15 yard gain.

But that's not to say the defense didn't have its fair share of plays as well because they controlled the early portions of the session. As a unit they tackled well and only gave up one long yardage play (the Roberts' screen play).

In fact, the defense was very effective outside the short scores holding the offense to short gains and getting pressure on the quarterback multiple times forcing some early throws and incompletions.

Coverage also was good for the unit as a whole, as many pass catchers were immediately hit upon catching the ball and a couple of those receivers dropped the ball upon the hit.

Najee Goode broke up a pass across the middle, while Terence Garvin once again delivered a huge hit, a scene that has became commonplace throughout the spring drills.

Bowser also got revenge from getting beat by Ryan Nehlen for a touchdown earlier in the session, when he responded with a huge hit to Nehlen that forced an incomplete pass.

Bruce Irvin continued to put solid pressure on the quarterback off the edge, and Troy Gloster also had a nice rush on a blitz that would have been a sack had play not been whistled dead.

After practice players spoke to the physical nature of the practices.

"They're our teammates. We're all in it to get better and competition level is going to be high. But there is no malicious intent, we're just out there to get better," Smith said.

Practice will resume tomorrow afternoon with the first scrimmage of the spring.


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