WHEELING - As if traveling during the regular season in the Big 12 isn't enough, head coach Dana Holgorsen and his Mountaineers took to the road on Saturday for the first of three 'open' practice sessions that will be held prior to the annual Gold/Blue Scrimmage.
The first road trip took the old gold and blue to Wheeling Island Stadium.
"It's always fun to come to Wheeling," said Holgorsen. "We've had nothing but good times here. I appreciate the good weather. We might come up here every day if the weather is like this.
"Our guys are excited about this. The idea originated because spring practice gets redundant. To be able to change things up a little bit is good for our guys. It's got a little bit of a road game feel to it too, being able to go out and practice on the road, in a different environment, ignore the surroundings, and just go out and play ball is really good."
And, fans were treated to a usual practice-for WVU.
After stretching, players split into groups and started Oklahoma drills, pitting running backs against linebackers, offensive linemen versus defensive linemen and wide receivers against defensive backs.
Following that, the team began working on special teams with the majority of the two-hour session spent on individual position-specific drills. Parkersburg South graduate Michael Molinari handled the kickoff duties with wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway working with Wendell Smallwood, University of Pittsburgh transfer Rushel Shell, Mario Alford, Jacky Marcellus, Daryl Worley and Keishawn Richardson on the return game.
"I don't really know," continued the coach prior to the beginning of practice. "It's going to take time. Every practice we learn something new with each guy. We try to put them in as many situations as we can. In a few minutes, we will have Oklahoma drills which is 1-on-1, physical, and we will learn about the toughness of some of the guys.
"We learn new things about each guy individually every time they step out here."
Two players drawing the most attention from the crowd, however, was junior college transfer quarterback Skyler Howard and Shell.
"It's similar to the other players, we try to evaluate them every time they come out," said Holgorsen. "Skyler (Howard) does some things well. He also struggles with some things as well. Naturally, he does a great job of extending the play, which was a problem we had last year at the quarterback spot.
"Rushel (Shell) has done a good job. He's trying to grasp the offense and what he's doing. Once we get these guys to the point where they aren't thinking about what they are doing, that's when they'll be good.
"The guys like Karl Joseph and K.J. Dillon know what they are doing. Those guys aren't thinking about what they need to do, so they are able to react a lot better. Kevin White, Mario Alford, Dreamius Smith and Adam Pankey all know what to do now. We are able to see those guys improve, because they aren't thinking, the new guys are still thinking."
Howard and senior Paul Millard took the majority of the snaps with the first unit with Shell, Smith, Dustin Garrison, Andrew Buie, Cody Clay and Elijah Wellman rotating at the running back positions. The first team receiving corps was made up of returnees Daikiel Shorts, Alford and White while the offensive line consisted of Pankey (left tackle), Quinton Spain (left guard), Tyler Orlosky (center), Mark Glowinski (right guard) and Marquis Lucas (right tackle).
The second team offense saw Millard and Logan Moore at quarterback, Marcellus, Devonte Mathis, Myers, and Ricky Rogers as the receivers. Michael Calicchio, Russell Haughton-James, Tony Matteo, Stone Underwood and Marcell Larzard made up the offensive line for the second team.
"Every time we go through practice we are adding something new," said Holgorsen. "Next week we will add something new. I don't think the installation process ever ends. You just have to refine everything."
Something Mountaineer fans hope they will get an opportunity to witness in person when WVU holds its second 'open' practice at Mountaineer Field on Saturday, March 29.