|Dale Wolfley likes what he sees so far from Ja'Juan Seider's running backs.
Spring football is about the players!
Yes, it’s for the coaches as well with their instruction, installment and evaluation, but what it really all comes back to is the core of the team. The meat and potatoes, the talent. Spring ball is not concentrated on game planning or adding elaborate schemes to defeat your opponent. It’s about players focusing on getting back to the basics of football, specifically to their position and squad.
The crux of spring ball is emphasizing reps, reps, and more reps with technique, technique, technique, and then throw in some execution and toughness, just to start. Fundamental repetitions, in regards to football with blocking, tackling, running, catching and defending is a necessity and cannot be overstated. Architects and head coaches know that in order to build a great house, a solid foundation is the key requirement.
NCAA Division I teams are allowed 15 practices in the spring with only 12 of those in pads. Six practices of spring ball have been completed thus far with the last three being in full pads. I have enjoyed my view from up above as I have had the opportunity to watch the practices and break down the film. In last week’s Wolf’s Huddle, I mentioned that I liked the total number of players on the team and that all starts out at square one. This remains true as the numbers provide depth, and just as important, competition. And like all good things in dairy products, the cream rises to the top.
Here’s a brief look at offense: (Next week I’ll break down the Mountaineer defense)
The offensive scheme was pretty much what I expected. The offense used the personnel sets of 10, 20, 30 and 11 that they have showed before in previous years. Since there can only be five offensive skill on the field on any given play (not including QB), personnel groups are determined by how many RBs + TEs = WRs. The first number is always how many running backs are on the field and the second digit is for counting the TEs. For example: one RB + one TE is 11 personnel, which means that there are three WRs. Ten personnel means there is one RB, zero TEs and four WRs. In the great game of Xs and Os, defenses need to know personnel groups to be able to match up.
The Holgorsen Air Raid is still the staple of the offense and they will continue to air it out, but you can tell that they are tweaking a bit. The best counter play that an offense has is to play-action off of what the offense does best. The term Air Raid means just what it sounds like. Spreading the field and bombarding the defense with an aerial assault. The screen has always played a big part of this offense as a counter with the offense showing pass and throwing the ball behind the line of scrimmage to get the O-Line down the field to block on the smaller guys. It appears that the staff is implementing more draw plays to add to their counter repertoire. When the O is running the ball, fans can expect to see the zone and power schemes along with some crafty reverses. I like the overall picture. They are not where they need to be yet, but this is not to be unexpected. The defense usually starts out ahead of the offense. I believe when you look at the talent, speed and maturity, this leads me to believe they have begun their journey.
The giant gorilla in the room is, of course, the QB position. Will it be Paul Millard
, Clint Trickett
or junior college newcomer Skyler Howard
? I have liked what I have seen so far from Paul and Skyler. Paul is very comfortable and understands the offense and displays his generalship, while Skyler has shown a quick throwing release with excellent feet to keep the play alive. He is a good addition to the team and has made it clear he is here to compete. The full story, however, won’t be written until fall camp when Trick gets back from his shoulder injury.
The offensive line looks to be forming a solid squad with the older guys leading the way and the younger guys progressing. Saturday’s practice may not have left the best impression to the onlooker, but being the first week of spring ball days like that can happen. This is normal and will take time for these guys to jell. I would, however, like to see the line this year take a nasty disposition when it comes to short yardage situations. In my mind, short yardage is all attitude and want! That applies to the entire offense.
Left guard Quinton Spain
is a true road grinder where he just absorbs and eats up defensive linemen with power and explosion. Right guard Mark Glowinski
, nicknamed by his teammates appropriately as Bam Bam, is always eager to make contact and is a true basher! Center Tyler Orlosky
appears to have picked up where he left off last year by finishing the season strong. Right tackle Marquis Lucas
it appears has found a home where he can utilize his athletic ability and quick feet. Left tackle Adam Pankey
is coming into his own. Size, feet, and those long arms will be helpful in blocking those Big 12 speed rushers from the QB’s blind spot.
Guard/Center Stone Underwood
is limited with a cast on his wrist, but he is fighting the good fight, and guard Russell Haughton-James
has benefitted from playing time last year and had a solid week.
The running back room is aglow. I know that it is hard for running back coach Ja’Juan Seider not to smile when I talk to him about all the talent he has to work with. Smith, Smallwood, Shell, Garrison and Buie are talented, with each offering a little different athletic perspective and attributes. The coaching staff will have to be clever in how they get the most out of this talent on the field at one time. All I can say is that this is a competitive group and this is a good problem to have as long as the boys share. They have been impressive and I look forward to seeing if any of them can separate themselves from the pack.
I haven’t forgetten Cody Clay
because he is the unsung hero of the group and his blocking skills appear to only be getting better. It’s obvious that he spent quality time in the weight room and had an excellent winter conditioning. I actually witnessed a couple of catches out of him this past week, and adding that to his arsenal can double his threat.
The wide receivers should be the group that really benefits from another year of being together. White, Shorts, Alford, Thompson, Myers and Mathis have all caught balls and shined at certain times. Speed kills, just ask Mario Alford
, and look out for redshirt freshman Jacky Marcellus
at the inside H back. Daikiel Shorts
continues to impress me. He has that intangible knack to find those open areas on the field and make the plays. I am very interested to follow this group’s progress with consistency catching the ball and blocking down field this spring.
A few other observations … The defense in the odd multiple front and what I like to call the Big Nickel looks lean, fast and explosive but we’ll get deeper into that next week. Redshirt-freshman, and native West Virginians Ellijah Wellman
(TE/FB) and Jon Lewis
(DL) are making some noise and drawing positive attention. Finally, last Saturday’s practice at Wheeling Island Stadium was a success, not only for the fans to get to watch, but for the players as well.
I whole-heartedly recommend to all fans that are thinking of attending the Charleston practice on April 5th to do so because it will be well worth your time.