Depth Charges

West Virginia's running back situation has gone from depth to dearth, and is now inching back toward the former as the Mountaineers prepare to meet Syracuse in a Thursday night showdown on ESPN.

The Mountaineers, who were forced to pull the redshirt from freshman Pernell Williams last week, are now looking at four healthy backs. Kay Jay Harris is back practicing after missing last week's game with UConn, and Jason Colson also is healthier. Along with walk-on Bryan Wright, the Mountaineers should have four backs available for the Orange.

"Kay Jay is healthier and he is running faster. He may be healthier because Pernell Williams is pretty good," Rodriguez joked. "It makes a good situation for us better. He's a weapon; he's the fastest guy we have. We're not going to push Kay Jay aside. He's a talented guy, and he's going to play. But you can't have too many tailbacks."

Rodriguez indicated that Harris would not start, simply because he has missed a great deal of practice and "is not in shape" to play the entire game. He said that either Colson or Williams would start, depending on the play call.

"The starter probably depends on what play we open up with. It will be Colson, Williams, or both. They'll all play, but the rotation will depend on the plays called, because some of them do some plays better than others."

Rodriguez' first thought about the Orange was with their size.

"They seem bigger. They've always had big guys, but they seem taller. It seems like they are tall across both fronts," Rodriguez observed. "Other than that, [their defense] is playing a similar scheme. Defensively, Coach Dunlap has put in a few wrinkles, but it's much the same schemes and keys.

"Two years ago we played one of our best games against them. Last year up there it was more back and forth. Walter Reyes is a dangerous back. He had the screen pass for about a 60-yard touchdown, and he hurt us some.

"To me, they played harder than Florida State," the fourth-year WVU coach continued. "FSU's offensive line is about as big as anyone's in the country, and they couldn't move the Syracuse front line. And Syracuse didn't blitz much. They didn't do a whole lot different, they just played sound and solid and didn't make any mistakes."


Rodriguez spent several minutes answering questions that were thinly veiled as indictments of his recruiting players such as Brandon Barrett and Travis Garvin, who both encountered legal problems over the past two days.

"You may think all we do is teach them football, but we don't," Rodriguez said. "We try to teach them life lessons too. At what point are we still responsible for them? Is John McKay still responsible for O. J. Simpson?"

Rodriguez managed to keep his cool, but his thermostat definitely went up when asked if he had ever passed on a player for "character reasons".

"What kind of question is that? We pass on guys every day," Rodriguez said. "That's what the evaluation period is for. "After I approve him, I'll say ‘Go check his character'.

Rodriguez also corrected the idea that Garvin was "troubled" during his WVU career. "Travis Garvin did not get in trouble outside the program while he was here. He was suspended a couple of times here, but it was for team rules. Not academic, just football practice rules. He had no trouble outside the program.

"We saw him at Central Florida. He said things were going well. I didn't even know he was back in West Virginia. It breaks your heart. But a guy has to be responsible – I'm not going to give excuses for him."

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Rodriguez spoke of the need to get Rasheed Marshall "juiced up" with the appropriate selection pf play calls. Rodriguez believes that balancing the number of runs and passes helps Marshall get into a good rhythm, which was highlighted during the UConn game. Although some teams have been taking some of the quarterback runs away from WVU, Rodriguez thinks that the opportunities are always there to get Marshall rolling with rushing plays.

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Jeff Noechel and Boo McLee will likely split time at linebacker. Noechel replaced McLee in the starting lineup last week against UConn, and had a stellar performance. "He's been in the program a couple of years, and he's gotten better every year," Rodriguez said of Noechel. "He's a good example of what you're supposed to do."

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On the UConn trip, Rodriguez found out that the former governor of Connecticut appropriated a great deal of money for the school, a good chunk of which went into the new football stadium. "Whoever our next governor is, I'm going to have to get him in contact with the ex-governor up there," Rodriguez said with a smile.

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