Palko Focus for WVU Defense

Head coach Rich Rodriguez continues to marvel over the improved play of Pitt quarterback Tyler Palko, who has led the Panthers back into contention for the Big East title.

"He's leading the charge offensively," Rodriguez said on Monday. "You can tell on film how he can improvise and make things happen. He never panics. His poise, particularly for a first year starter, is remarkable. I've said this before, but I think being a coach's son has a lot to do with it. That, and being in a system he is comfortable in.

"It's going to be a tough game, and playing at their place just adds to that," Rodriguez added. "We have had some good practices, so I just hope we go up there and play well Thursday night."


Like just about every other coach in the country, Rodriguez was asked for his reaction to the bench-clearing brawls that occurred in the NBA and college football over the weekend. The fiery coach revealed that it was a topic of discussion during practice.

"We addressed it yesterday with team, and we will talk about it again today. That's all they are going to see on the highlight shows, so players have to be aware there are limits to how far you carry emotions and what is acceptable behavior. I think it's a hard lesson for everybody, and we will address it again today."

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Rodriguez observed that the 3-3-5 defense continues to evolve at West Virginia.

"We started with it because it fit our personnel better," the fourth-year coach explained. "We had a lot of safety types and not as many defensive linemen. The flexibility we have with it lends it to covering all the different offenses we see. We have slowly expanded it, and added things every year."

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Rodrugez laughed ruefully when asked if WVU's special teams problems have been ironed out.

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In addition to the loss of Chris Henry to suspension, WVU will likely be without its starting tight end. Ryan Thomas is very doubtful, and combined with the already sidelined Josh Bailey, WVU has become very thin at that spot. A couple of offensive linemen were given work at that spot during the off weekend.

Rodriguez also said that the status of Kay Jay Harris is still up in the air.

"We are a little more optimistic KJ will be at full speed on Thursday, but we'll probably know more after practice Tuesday."

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