MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The film of West Virginia’s first spring scrimmage revealed a running game that was frequently overwhelmed at or behind the line of scrimmage.
“Both tackles played pretty well, but inside, we just didn’t do what we needed to do, and we need to continue to work on that,” said co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Moore. “It’s not progressing the way I want it to right now.”
Moore thinks West Virginia’s running backs are where they need to be, but that the line needs to continue to gel if the back are to reach their potential.
“It’s the O-line. We have to get it right,” Moore said. “We can’t allow run-throughs. We can’t allow negative plays. It’s like I told my group the other day, ‘If we can keep people from running through, our running backs are good enough where they are going to get yards. They are going to get what they need. We just have to do our job.’”
The offensive line is practicing without Josh Sills, who is the lone starter returning on the interior line.
For running backs coach Chad Scott, the trick is making sure that his group doesn’t take Saturday’s lack of success to heart.
“You have to know how to channel your energy and emotions. You find out who a person is when adversity strikes,” Scott said. “They had quite a bit of success last year, so that might be some of the first adversity they’ve faced with getting stuffed like that. That’s my first opportunity to see how they react.”
Scott said he is making sure the running backs send a positive message to the offensive line.
“For you to be the great player that you want to be, that you’re capable of becoming, part of that is helping the other guys become as good at their craft so they can help you,” Scott said. “Instead of saying – and nobody said this – ‘Block your guy, don’t miss your block,’ say ‘You can do this. All I need is a little space. I just need a crease and I can get there.’
“Just find a way to help those guys and encourage them, try to inspire confidence.”
See Jack run?
To the general public, Jack Allison is the least mobile of West Virginia’s quarterbacks by a wide margin.
Allison was sacked five times in his only collegiate start, a 34-18 loss to Syracuse in the Camping World Bowl. Compared to Austin Kendall, who showed flashes of escapability in his handful of plays at Oklahoma, or Trey Lowe, who is a true dual-threat, it’s easy to think Allison is statuesque.
But one must also consider that Allison made his first college start against the defense that finished sixth in the country in sacks per game, and did so without West Virginia’s starting left tackle to protect his blind side. Quarterbacks coach Sean Reagan thinks Allison is actually very capable of escaping pressure.
“I wouldn’t say Austin and Jack are all that different when it comes to being able to put the ball down and go,” Reagan said. “Austin may be a little more elusive, but he’s not a make-you-miss guy by any means. I think we’re mobile enough at that position to do what we want to do.”
When Tiffany Trickett showed signs of early labor last week in Atlanta, her husband, West Virginia assistant Travis Trickett, figured he needed to bolt spring practice.
Head coach Neal Brown made the decision easy.
“Coach Brown was super-understanding. He just said, ‘You need to get on a plane. You need to go!’ Not all Division I coaches are like that,” Trickett said.
While Brown substituted as tight ends coach, Trickett flew south only to discover that his wife wasn’t quite ready to give birth to their third child.
“The first couple days, we walked and we ate eggplant parmesan,” Trickett said. “We did every old wives’ tale we could find on Google.”
Ultimately, little Holden was born with Daddy present … and Trickett made it back to Morgantown in time for Saturday’s scrimmage.
Trickett already has his son getting into the Mountaineer spirit, providing an early rendition of Country Roads:
Here at West Virginia University… we have one of the BEST traditions in all of college athletics … after we WIN we sing Country Roads!
— Travis Trickett (@CoachTTrickett) March 29, 2019
Tuesday practice report
Right guard Josh Sills and linebacker VanDarius Cowan are still out with injuries, but they appeared one step closer to returning as the Mountaineers returned to the practice field.
Both players went through walk-throughs with their position group as West Virginia warmed up before practice. Cowan is dealing with a hamstring issue, and Sills has been out since having his left leg rolled by a teammate. Sills was walking around without the massive leg brace he wore while watching Saturday’s scrimmage from the weight room.
Receiver Marcus Simms is still absent. Brown said he has been dealing with a personal issue.
–Allan Taylor contributed to this report.