Arm-weary WVU QBs thankful for break
MORGANTOWN - It seems a rather odd position for a rather lengthy break, much like West Virginia's upcoming football schedule itself.
On the latter, there's the opening game with Marshall on Sept. 1 and then quickly comes the first of two off weeks after barely breaking a sweat.
More immediately, there is the 12-day break in spring drills the Mountaineers just began following only six of the permitted 15 workouts. Only the four most recent were in full pads, so it hardly seems necessary to take a break.
Of course, the reason for the hiatus has nothing to do with football. Classes are not in session next week for the school's annual spring break, and that's the reason for the hiatus.
But there is at least one group that welcomes the time off. In fact, it couldn't come at a better time.
With only three quarterbacks on the roster of a team that throws the ball a lot, Geno Smith, Paul Millard and Ford Childress are already weary-armed. They haven't thrown consistently for several months, and to cram so many practice throws into a short period of time takes its toll.
"It's a perfect time, especially after watching [Thursday's] practice,'' quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital said of the break. "Geno, Paul and Ford's arms are pretty dead. We'll give them a good week to relax and then get back into next week.''
Actually, it won't be until the week after that. The team's next practice isn't until April 3, a week from Tuesday.
Of course, throwing so many passes in practice isn't anything new for Smith and Millard, who did much the same in spring drills and August camp a year ago. And Childress, who until December was still in high school in Houston, has never thrown this much in his life.
There's not even a walk-on quarterback around to help when the quarterbacks spend hours throwing to receivers in both individual drills and team work. Last year's No. 3 quarterback, Michael Burnett, a freshman who transferred in from Kentucky just before the start of school, left school at the semester break and will likely try to play at a lower level.
A year ago it got so tiring for the quarterbacks that some of the coaches - Spavital, receivers coach Shannon Dawson and head coach Dana Holgorsen - stepped into the rotation to throw to receivers.
Typically during individual drills involving quarterbacks and receivers, two of the passers will throw in one direction, then the receivers will get back in line downfield and the third quarterback will throw the other direction. There are also times when all three are throwing to three receivers simultaneously from the same pass pocket.
The drills might include four quarterbacks throwing to a four-receiver set if there was a fourth passer, but instead occasionally Dawson will tell that fourth receiver to stand in his position on the line of scrimmage just to fill the space.
Again, Smith and Millard have been through this before, but Childress has not.
"Ford was struggling a little bit [Thursday],'' Spavital said. "I need to start cutting the reps down of individuals because it is pretty taxing on a quarterback's arm when you're throwing 500 to 1,000 balls. It'll be good for them to get a week of rest.''
Also, this is not just a break following six spring practices, but time off following two months of constant strength and conditioning work that went on from mid-January to mid-March.
"Renewed energy,'' running backs coach Robert Gillespie said when asked what he hoped the break would accomplish. "Hopefully they miss football after three or four days of being home. Hopefully they get the fun out and get their mindset back on football.
"I know as coaches that's what happens to us. We enjoy the first couple of days and all of the sudden we start calling each other, texting each other and drawing plays on napkins.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.