WVU football: Summer workouts not so serious
MORGANTOWN -- The idea behind West Virginia University's volunteer summer workouts these past several weeks is to be prepared for the start of preseason camp early next month.
The secret behind the twice weekly gatherings is that they're kind of fun.
It beats running and lifting and the other ways the Mountaineers attain strength and conditioning. Instead of sweating and straining in the indoor practice facility while the regular weight room is renovated, they're off in the open with their teammates doing drills, rehearsing plays and, most excitingly, playing 7-on-7.
It's quarterbacks, running backs and receivers lining up against linebackers and defensive backs. When you play for the Mountaineers and there is such an onus on offense, it's not especially exciting for offensive linemen.
"We just do positional things," right tackle Curtis Feigt said. "We go through our run steps and our pass sets. Once team (drills) rolls around, we do team stuff with offense against defense, but when they're out there doing 7-on-7, we keep working on our steps and our sets and our footwork and our hands. Things like that. It's just something you have to do."
What is bad is also good. It's not a lot of fun, but it's also not a lot different from what the linemen will be made to do in practice. That it's so close to what they'll be doing in less than a month makes for close to ideal preparation for those Mountaineers.
Three starters were lost to graduation. Feigt, left tackle Quinton Spain and Pat Eger are the returning starters, but Eger has played guard and tackle and was learning center in the spring before an ankle injury cut that short. Nick Kindler is the only other player with any substantial playing experience, and he has just one start.
There are eight other offensive linemen on scholarship on campus -- three freshmen, three redshirt freshmen, a junior college transfer who redshirted last season and a junior college transfer who arrived this summer -- who have never taken a snap for the Mountaineers. Some of them will have to be factors in the fall to replace both starting guards and the center from last year, which makes the role of the veterans important in the summer.
"It's me, Pat, Nick and Spain out there telling the young kids, 'All right, here's what we do on inside zone. This is what it looks like,' " Feigt said. "We teach them this and that and other steps. We're going through the motions to see what they do right and what they do wrong and then we go through the whole progression again and see if they can do it better or if they're doing the same things."
The workout lasts about an hour. The first half is split between individual drills and then work against the defensive line. Then comes the 7-on-7 session when the offensive linemen go back to work among themselves.
There are ways to make it less mundane. They'll work on inside zone one day and outside zone the next. They'll go over the power plays and double teams that are new under first-year offensive line coach Ron Crook. For effect, they combat one another with the ones playing defensive line using pads to add emphasis to the drill.
That matters because these workouts have to happen without pads.
"You get a little bit of change," Feigt said, "but it's really just the same thing over and over again as you try to perfect it."
Truth be told, the 7-on-7 sessions aren't an entire waste. None of the linemen take snaps as oversized fullbacks or inside receivers, but there's value in watching.
"Some of us go back and get the play with the quarterback and then we quiz the younger guys on what they have to do on that play," Feigt said. "That gets them caught up pretty quickly."
That's the point for all of the linemen. Feigt said the newcomers and the inexperienced returning players have broken through the nerves that restricted them earlier. They're used to the physical demands and what is expected to execute every play, different as they may be.
This is not solely about lessening or eliminating the learning curve when the Mountaineers meet at the first practice Aug. 1. While many are using the summer to get caught up with the veterans, it's equally important for those players to stay ahead and give the Mountaineers the skill through experience they expect to build on in the fall.
"For the new guys, it's big to get a grip on what we're looking for in the system and how they want us to step in each play, and it's good to get an understanding of every single play," Feigt said. "But for us older guys, it's more about not forgetting about your technique. That's why we go out there two times a week. We're practicing to get it right in our head. We go over it every day so we don't forget. We don't want to go out there a month before we play and be like, 'Oh, I kind of forgot about all of that.' "
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.