Eager To Play

West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez says his team is ready to play and see if they can meet the high expectations for the Mountaineer program in 2004.

"We're excited to finally be in game week," Rodriguez said on Monday. "Our players are tired of practicing against each other, and they are ready to go and prove themselves on field.

"The team has a good attitude. I think they are ready to go out and try to live up to the high expectations. Our camp was pretty good. We had some injuries that were cause for concern, but we are getting healthier."

Rodriugez is also aware that the high national rankings have resulted in more preseason attention for his squad, which is favored to win the Big East.

"West Virginia fans are annually optimistic," Rodriguez said, no doubt with a bit of wry humor. "All this hype has fueled the fire. Externally, it probably has added a bit of pressure, but internally we've stayed the same. We take the approach, in practice, film work, and conditioning and the players see that and respond to it. We know we have more eyes on us, and we have to see how we handle it.

"All they hype and rankings go out the window once you play," Rodriguez continued. "I'm anxious to go out there and see what happens."


Rodriguez also talked about the evolution of his spread offense, and the changes that it undergoes every year.

"Now everyone uses it in some form, so that makes us stay on our toes and forces us to tweak it every year. It's an interesting chess match against the defense.

"We've also shared information with a number of coaches, going back to when I was at Tulane and Clemson, so as those coaches move around a lot of information gets out there. So, we've varied it more each year, although the base stays the same."

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While Rodriguez undoubtedly has tweaks to his offense that East Carolina hasn't seen, the Pirates will be uncorking an entirely new offensive system under new offensive coordinator Noah Brindise. Brindise was a quarterback in Florida's Fun 'n' Gun offense, and while the Mountaineers expect to see some form of that attack on Saturday, there's no telling what elements may be involved.

"We're not sure what facets of the Fun 'n Gun they will use," Rodriguez worried. "They have a talented QB and good receivers. And we know they are going to run four or five trick plays that we've never seen. It's just hard to prepare for everything. We have to be ready for those early, and get more pressure on their quarterback.

"From a scheme standpoint, the opener is always difficult, because you don't know what they are going to do. Especially when they have a new coordinator. From a motivational standpoint, though, it's easy because everyone is anxious to play."

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Rodriguez continued to express doubts, albeit minor ones, over the status of his running attack.

"The running game has been the focus the last two years, because we have had really good tailbacks. We aren't sure if our tailbacks now are at the level of a Quincy Wilson or an Avon Cobourne. That's a big question for us coming in. If we can run, we can be a pretty good offense."

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