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Defense yields too many deep plays for Gibson’s taste

West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson talks with his first-teamers during the Mountaineers’ spring scrimmage Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The renovation project that is West Virginia’s defense began with a bang Saturday. Cornerback Raul Douglas jumped Shelton Gibson’s curl route and reversed Skyler Howard’s pass for a pick-six.

Then Howard took his revenge, and several other quarterbacks made big scoring throws too, leaving defensive coordinator Tony Gibson with volumes of what he described as “teaching film.”

By the end of the scrimmage, Howard tossed touchdowns of 75 and 20 yards to Gibson, along with an 11-yarder to Ka’Raun White. Gary Jennings’ two-score day included a 50-yarder on a slant pass from backup quarterback Chris Chugunov and a red-zone throw by William Crest.

Cornerback Rasul Douglas returns an interception for a touchdown during WVU’s spring practice Saturday.

Crest also turned a scramble into a 20-yard touchdown run, though Gibson was most bothered by the deep balls,

“Making them go eight or nine plays, you can live with that, but the one over your head is not good,” he said.

It was a dose of reality on the heels of Thursday’s scrimmage from which Gibson emerged pleased, blitzing 38 times on 56 snaps and seeing his top three units surrendered only one long pass. By Saturday, with the lack of cornerback depth showing and the explosive plays mounting, Gibson resorted to more zone “to give the guys some relief.”

And to give Douglas, Nana Kyeremeh and Antonio Crawford some confidence after seeing receivers speed past them.

“We’ve got to have guys that can cover because I like to blitz,” Gibson said. “We have to do a better job of disguising what we’re doing and moving around. We were getting after them a little bit early and we got caught.”

As Gibson seeks cornerback help, junior college signees Mike Daniels and Elijah Battle are scheduled to arrive in May, with three-star freshman Jake Long slated for June.

Offensive numbers: While West Virginia did not release scrimmage stats, the informal totals showed Howard 10-of-21 passing for 167 yards, three touchdowns and the early interception.

“Rough start today, but then we got it going,” Howard said. “That’s how a game’s going to go, so it’s good to see our guys get knocked down and not stay down.”

Chugunov went 4-of-11 for 98 yards and a touchdown and Crest finished 7-of-11 passing for 71 yards with five carries for another 57.

Gibson’s 112 yards on three catches led the receivers, followed by Jennings making four for 83 yards. Kennedy McKoy gained 60 yards on 11 carries and Rushel Shell ran for 29 on eight attempts.

Injury update: Second-team Will linebacker David Long (ankle) exited on his first series and did not return.

David Sills absorbed a hit crossing the middle after his leaping catch on a too-tall pass by Crest. The sophomore soon removed his pads and sported an ice wrap on his lower back.

Best hit: Safety Dravon Askew-Henry popped Daniel Shorts to break up an underneath route.

“Y’all should see us at the other practices, how we get after it every day,” Askew-Henry said. “We’re damn near ready to fight. We go at it, I promise you.”

Full-on Holgorsen: After right tackle Marcell Lazard backed out of his stance too early in pass protection, Holgorsen gave him the business from the sideline.

“Because third-and-10 isn’t difficult enough, we make it third-and-15 by being undisciplined! Keep it up, 77!”

Coming and going: Soon-to-be drafted running back Wendell Smallwood watched practice, as did incoming four-star linebacker Brendan Ferns.

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