West Virginia spring football notebook: Austin Kendall already earning teammates’ respect

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MORGANTOWN — At the conclusion of his second practice as a West Virginia quarterback, a pair of teammates patted Austin Kendall on the back.

Those players were linebacker Shea Campbell and safety Donte Bonamico.

It’s possible that Kendall just happened to be the nearest teammate in back-patting range. But the small gesture felt like it said a lot more about the respect Kendall is already commanding from all corners of the locker room. It’s not unusual for defensive players to be a bit slow to warm up to a new quarterback.

Kendall, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma, has only been enrolled at West Virginia since January.

Like the two quarterbacks he’s competing against for the starting job, Kendall also had some nice moments throwing the ball Thursday. His ability to drop the ball in to receivers running out routes to the sideline stood out in particular.

On several drills from 15 yards out, Jack Allison had the accuracy edge among the quarterback trio. And Trey Lowe demonstrated that he is far more than a running quarterback. On Thursday, at least, no one had more zip on deep balls than Lowe.

Other practice observations:

Get on your feet, or else…

It was a high-energy practice. As advertised, Neal Brown used a newfangled speaker system to communicate what the team would work on in the next practice period. Rap music played over the speakers during most of the early periods.

Brown was particularly vigilant about making sure no players were kneeling on the sidelines if they weren’t participating in a drill, repeatedly shouting “Stay off the ground!” over the sound system.

The closest he came to a boiling point came after one violation too many.

“God dang it, stay off the ground!” was Brown’s closest brush with profanity.

Mays finding his way

One way or the other, redshirt freshman Briason Mays is going to have a chance to get on the field this season. Mays alternated snaps with junior Chase Behrndt and sophomore Adam Stilley.

During the final team drill of practice, West Virginia’s first-unit offensive line consisted of Colton McKivitz (left tackle), Mays (left guard), Behrndt (center), Josh Sills (right guard) and Kelby Wickline (right tackle).

The hunt to replace Jennings and Sills

Perhaps the most common receiver formation on display Thursday featured senior Marcus Simms and redshirt freshman Sam James on the outside with junior T.J. Simmons in the slot.

Cowan practices

On defense, linebacker VanDarius Cowan was a full participant. Two weeks before practice started, defensive coordinator Vic Koenning indicated that Cowan “had a lot of work to do” to get on the field.

Norwood, Miller step up

Cornerbacks Josh Norwood and Dreshun Miller each had athletic pass breakups. Miller is a transfer from Eastern Arizona Community College who enrolled in January.

Injury report

Linebacker Charlie Benton and center Jacob Buccigrossi were the lone two players who did not participate. Both worked on conditioning as they recover from injuries.

Tight end Mike O’Laughlin was among a handful of players in a green jersey. The green-jersey players participated in non-contact team and individual drills.

Several linebackers who missed the majority of last season, including Dylan Tonkery and Brendan Ferns, were full participants. So was Quandarius Qualls, who is now at defensive end.

Real football coming

At the conclusion of practice, Brown reminded his team that “t-shirt ball is over.” The Mountaineers will have their first fully padded practice on Saturday inside Milan Puskar Stadium.

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