By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
August 9, 2009
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The scope of West Virginia’s 2009 offense will essentially boil down to five days. That is the amount of time offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen says it will take to put in the entire system for the season.
||Offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen said it is imperative that he find a reliable No. 2 quarterback behind Jarrett Brown.
WVU Photographic Services/Dan Friend photo
Mullen understands that he is going to lose a lot of players during the forced cram session he’s giving them, particularly the younger players.
“I think it’s going to be a little bit more of a rocky road at the beginning,” Mullen said Saturday evening. “We anticipate that and we’re certainly going to coach them hard through that, but we’ve found out who we are and what we’re good at - and we’re going to get all of that installed very early in practice so we can get better and better over the next three-four weeks.”
Mullen said the plan that his offensive staff has come up with for this year actually was developed before the start of spring practice.
“I thought we did a great job as a staff in the wintertime prior to the spring figuring out what the good, the bad and the ugly were (from 2008),” Mullen said.
“Spring is a time to experiment and find out what they can do and spring is a time to set your depth chart,” Mullen explained. “Fall is a time to understand from the spring what you’re good at and getting better at that. We have eliminated some of the things from spring, but held on to most of it.”
During yesterday’s practice, Mullen said the coaches intentionally threw a lot at them.
“We called a lot of different ball plays out there,” he said. “It is something an experienced group should be able to do.”
Despite a change in quarterbacks, Mullen said there will only be subtle changes from last year. That is because he is convinced that there is not that much difference between Pat White and Jarrett Brown.
“When you look at Patrick White and Jarrett Brown they’re very, very similar,” Mullen said. “Pat may have a slight edge in running ability but Jarrett can really, really run. Jarrett might have a slight edge in throwing ability, but we all know Pat and really, really throw. I don’t know how much different they are. The only difference is experience.
“Where Patrick White in his first go at our offense had three years worth of playing experience in front of 60,000 gold pom-poms, Jarrett Brown has only done it a few times during a four-year span,” Mullen said. “That’s going to be the big part … how he handles the 12-13 game football season with not so much the offense, but everyday preparation and handling it out there on the big stage.”
Equally important will be for Mullen to find a reliable second guy behind Brown. He said he will be watching freshman Gino Smith very closely during the next few weeks.
“I’ve got a good feel for what Coley (White) can do, but I need to get Gino as many reps as he can get and he will get those reps once he gets out of that green jersey,” Mullen said.
Of course the problem is the green jersey and Mullen doesn’t know for sure when Smith’s green shirt will be replaced with a gold one.
“I’m just day to day with him,” Mullen said.
That means Z receiver Bradley Starks will also remain at quarterback - at least through the end of next week.
“The thought process is because the first five days are heavy installation days, we’re going to have Bradley at quarterback the majority of the time,” Mullen said. “After the five, with 29 practices, we’re then going to bounce him back out to the edge because he will have gone through the installation process as a quarterback.
“Bradley Starks is going to see more reps in the front end than he will in the back end, but he will always get (QB) reps and keep him ready,” Mullen said.
From the little he has seen so far of Smith, Mullen really likes Smith’s physical abilities.
“But you’re talking about a kid who saw one-fifth of our offense in a 2 ½-hour practice. You want to talk about a kid whose head is spinning. He didn’t throw the ball real well because of it,” Mullen said. “I’ve got to get him through a couple of weeks and get a feel for if we can give him the lion’s share of the (No. 2) reps and go with him.”
Mullen admits some of that will also be determined by how well he pays attention in the meeting room.
“We do a lot of different things with our time,” he said. “We do a lot of walkthrough stuff. We have the quarterbacks get on the (grease) board and teach. We try and find different ways to get the point across to those guys. All of that stuff is important.”
All of the quarterbacks have been attentive and willing to learn.
“They’re great kids and they work very, very hard,” Mullen said. “Anything is relationship. They understand who I am and how I coach. I learn who they are and how they play and some of the buttons to push at certain times. I think with any working relationship the key word is relationship, so we’re working to build on that.”
Coach Bill Stewart was pleased with the attention to detail and the lack of mental mistakes on both sides of the ball during Sunday’s practice. He was not pleased with the amount of turnovers produced by the defense today.
“I want our defense attacking and I want them off the field,” Stewart said. “Yes, we were happy that we ranked eighth in the nation in red zone defense - but I WANT the ball.”
At the outset of camp, Jeff Mullen said he will be devoting most of his time on the field to his four quarterbacks. During individual work Mullen did a lot of explaining in terms of the fundamental things that he wants his young quarterbacks to understand - things such as balance, not throwing across your body, and not striding too long through throws.
“Drive off the back hip,” he said over and over. “Fast to your drop, then balance before you throw.
“Throwing a football is no different than shooting a jump shot,” Mullen told them. “It’s the same muscle memory.”
It was much hotter for Sunday’s practice, perhaps as much as 15 degrees warmer than Saturday. Weather.com had the temperature in Morgantown at 90 degrees. Tomorrow’s forecast is calling for a high of 87 with scattered thunderstorms.
“Our medical staff was on top of the situation,” said Stewart, “but I added two extra periods because of the heat.”
Wes Lyons was back at practice on Sunday. “He had a pretty good day,” said Stewart. “Wes is just a different guy in the slot.”
Wide receiver coach Lonnie Galloway believes the light is finally coming on with Wes. “I’ve finally got him to talk a little more,” Galloway joked. “He is figuring it. He’s 6-8 and he has the highest vertical on the team. He’s learning how to use his body.”
Galloway said after Sunday’s practice that he would like to have five outside receivers ready to go for the season opener against Liberty. One of those five might be redshirt freshman J.D. Woods, who had a good summer of strength and conditioning, according to Galloway.
Stewart said he kicked some against unbalanced lines today. He also believes the solution to the team’s poor kickoff coverage last year comes down to better hang time from his two kickers, Tyler Bitancurt and Josh Lider. Stewart said he visited several schools last spring to come up with some different ideas on kickoff coverage.
“The things I found out from visiting the top five teams in terms of kickoff and kickoff return was hang time,” Stewart said.
Stewart is confident both Bitancurt and Lider have the leg strength to get the ball deeper than the 20, with adequate hang time.
West Virginia has added Washington, D.C. wide receiver Jerrard Hunter to the roster. He’s a 6-foot-3, 173-pounder from H. D. Woodson High School who originally committed to Illinois.
“He was a kid that was out there who qualified late,” Galloway said. “He’s a big kid who can catch. But two days in he’s spinning (mentally).”