Rodriguez Comes Out Swinging

Rich Rodriguez fired a couple of preemptive strikes during Tuesday's East Carolina pregame press conference.

Rodriguez came out swinging during his regularly scheduled conference, taking on reporters who have continually sniped at West Virginia's schedule, and also noting that he didn't intend to entertain questions about an undefeated season.

"I've had more questions asked about schedule over the past couple of weeks, Rodriguez said to an assemblage of reporters. "It's not nearly as bad as what people make it out to be. There's no question it's not as good without Miami. But it's not our fault we don't play them. We didn't drop them. They dropped the Big East.

"But, has Maryland ever been better than they are right now? They have ten wins in each of the last three years. People say Virginia Tech is down, but did you see the game I saw last weekend? I still think they are one of the best programs in America, and we go there. Tech should be in the Top 25. If not for a couple of calls, they could have won that game [against USC].

"Connecticut beat Wake Forest by 30 last year, and Rutgers won five games. They could have easily won two more, and have a lot of people back. And Boston College, what they have done winning their bowl games, they are probably on an all time high, even going back to the Flutie years.

"Pitt, people are talking about them being down, but they were one game away from playing in BCS bowl last year. They've had a lot more success recently than in the few years before Walt (Harris) got there. Syracuse was 6-6 and killed Notre Dame at the end of the year. They have a lot of talented players too."

Rodriguez was obviously perturbed by comments appearing across media outlets over the past few days suggesting that WVU has an easy path to an undefeated season due to a perceived sub par schedule. He also tried to head off any querying of his players along those avenues.

"We don't want our players to talk about being undefeated. We'll talk about East Carolina, and then next week about Central Florida, and so on. We haven't arrived yet. We've been here three years and had three kids drafted in the late rounds. We have 55 freshmen and sophomores out of a total of 82 scholarships. We'll have arrived when we have seniors backed up by juniors backed up by sophomores, and we don't have that yet."

Following that address, Rodriguez joked that the "state of the state" was now concluded, but there was no doubt about the points being made. The fourth-year Mountaineer coach wants no distractions, or talk of undefeated seasons and perceived inferior schedules, to cloud his team's thinking.

RIFLE REPORTS

Rodriguez also commented on a number of topics, including:

Defensive Leadership: "We are going to miss Grant Wiley, Lance Frazier and Brian King. They held things together during games when the coaches can't be as involved. We need someone to take that mantle. Until you play a game, you don't know how that will go. Adam Lehnortt and Ben Lynch are in different roles than what they have been, so you don't know how they will react."

Pass Rush: "Can we beat one on one blocks? That's the question. I think we are better. We have more people, and we hope to play more players in the game."

Personnel: "Erick Wicks has a great future at the spur. He's the perfect body type. He's big and tall, but he's never done it before. Ridwan Malik is a little older; he is the backup at bandit.

"Adam Bednarik will be our number three QB. Dwayne Thompson will play at wide receiver this week, and you might look out there and see three 3 QBs on the field at the same time. If Eddie Jackson can get through rest of week and give us confidence he is physically o.k., then he will play on Saturday. Chris Malamet and Erick Phillips are the only two players in addition to Bryan Wright that are out this week. Pernell Williams is probably the only freshman that will play. We're trying to work him in on special teams, and he'll be the #3 tailback. Doug Slavonic will redshirt unless we get some injuries up front.

"Phil Brady (East Carolina transfer) had done good job, and will be the starter. He's very quick at getting the ball off. I will probably have to calm him down before the game. Brad Cooper has kicked it pretty well recently. One thing I like is that he doesn't make excuses. He doesn't point at the holder or the snapper or the wind. He just looks at film and tries to correct it. You have to respect that. He has all the tools. If he struggles on part of the field, maybe we go for it, but I expect that if we get around 45 yards and in, we'll try the field goal."

Offensive Line: "I feel a little more comfortable than last year with the offensive line. Against Wisconsin, we had some guys making their first starts. Getting Jeremy Sheffey back will help because he is one of our best guards. Right now, Tim Brown is still the starter at center with Garin Justice at tackle.

Running Backs: "We don't have a starter yet at tailback. They are kind of even right now. Maybe we'll put them both out there. Both have done a good job the past couple of days."

East Carolina's Defense:"They run a lot of blitzes. They even have one with no one down – all 11 guys are standing up. It's tough to prepare for. They bring all kinds of players from all over the place. They'll blitz safeties and corners, and drop linemen into coverage. I hope we don't blow gaskets and let guys come free."

Pregame Preparation: "Usually I am more relaxed after Thursday's practice. By then everything is calm, and we have everything in. But, you still get nervous. I get more nervous as a coach than a player. As far as our preparation, goes, though, it's all done. What you worry about is things like ‘Will our guys do what they did in practice and be sharp mentally?'

"I might watch some film on Friday nights and review some calls, but I probably watch that more like a fan. Usually the calls and everything are all set."

"I do hate waiting around on Saturday, though. I'd rather play at 8 a.m. The tradeoff, of course, is the atmosphere. I love a packed house and a big exciting evening game."


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