MORGANTOWN - It's hard to characterize West Virginia's spring drills as anything but a rousing success, at least based on the finish.
Talk about your feel-good endings - one of the largest crowds in the history of the Gold-Blue game watching the best of the Mountaineers rough up the rest of the Mountaineers by a tidy 38-0 count.
Here's the qualifier, though. In the grand scheme of things, that Friday night exhibition was clearly the most meaningless of West Virginia's 15 spring practices. Shoot, most coaches would prefer not even fooling with a spring game and instead have another practice where things are actually taught and worked on.
Granted, it is valuable in a way - this one particularly so. Given the crowd and the atmosphere, it really was about as close to a game-like situation as this team can get. And it's always nice to see how players respond in game situations. Coach Bill Stewart made that point beforehand when he said he was anxious to see how some players reacted when the lights were on. Literally.
Still, what happens in a public spring scrimmage has little to do with the goal of spring football. This isn't at all like August, when a team works four weeks toward the goal of being the best it can be at the end. It's entirely about setting the table for August and beyond. It's about experimentation and development and finding out who can play and who can't.
It's about establishing where a team is, where it can go and what needs to be done to get there.
So where is this West Virginia football team? Well, glad you asked.
Stewart and his staff will spend the next three months figuring that out. They will watch tape of every player and every drill from the spring. They will try to resign what they can do with what they are capable of doing. By August they will have come to most of the conclusions.
We don't want to wait that long, of course, so herewith is the Reader's Digest version of what they will be looking at.
On offense, three major tasks remain works in progress. The most significant of those is the offensive line. Even with four of five starters returning, this group has a lot to prove. The left side seems set with tackle Don Barclay, guard Josh Jenkins and center Joe Madsen. On the right side, Eric Jobe and redshirt freshman Cole Bowers split time at guard during the spring game. Ditto Jeff Braun and Matt Timmerman at tackle. But this is still a group that needs depth and is still trying to adapt to more of a pro-style blocking scheme after years of zone blocking. There remains work to do.
The other question marks on offense are at quarterback and wide receiver. There seems no question about who the quarterback is, and that he is both knowledgeable and capable. Geno Smith has a quick release and understands the offense, but he was never under pressure or surrounded by 300-pound bodies this spring. Freshmen Barry Brunetti and Jeremy Johnson will compete for the backup job the first week of August while Coley White tries his hand at receiver. Perhaps the best thing to come out of the spring was White's development at QB, but that's only in terms of providing backup help if one or both of the freshmen bomb.