Gearing Up For The Gator

Mountaineer head coach Rich Rodriguez has made some tweaks in his bowl preparations, and while a few of those affect media availability, it wasn't out of any concerns over the effects of the writers and broadcasters on last year's work.

"It's just earlier," Rodriguez said of the changes, which make players available before practice instead of afterward. "I was trying to accommodate you guys with earlier deadlines," he said with a laugh. "It's really not much different. The media didn't cause any distractions in our preparations the past two years.

"I just hope that when game time comes we compete," he continued. "Our changes are subtle. We researched things that other schools did, and we found that our schedule was almost identical to every bowl team that was having success. That was a comforting feeling."

That said, Rodriguez is limiting photography of practice in Jacksonville to the first half hour every day, in an effort to keep things that the team is working on for the Seminoles under wraps. Also, the players available for interviews before practice have been preselected as well, and will not be available every day. Those changes will ensure that players such as Rasheed Marshall and Adam Jones will not be overwhelmed, and that the team can get away after practice on schedule.


Rodriguez noted the difference in mood between last year's 8-3 team and this year's squad.

"I told the team that last year we were 8-3 and going to the Gator Bowl and everyone was excited, and this year we're 8-3 and some people are disappointed. I told them that was probably a good thing, though. It shows how expectations have gone up.

"I think we made a number of improvements this year," he continued. "I think we got better in certian aspects of our passing game. We were better in red zone defense, and got some different things installed coverage-wise. And at times we did some things better in special teams, even though you couldn't tell it from the last two games. Overall, our numbers improved a lot from last year."

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Playing Florida State in a bowl gives Rodriguez and his team the chance to measure themselves against some of the best players in the country.

"It's certainly an opportunity to know where you are," he said. "If you want to see how you stack up against some of the best players in the country, you'll get the chance to find out on January 1st. These are some of the best players in America, guys that were recruited by everyone. They are loaded with NFL players. That opportunity should create a lot of excitement for us. We'll find out a lot about our team, but I don't want to say this is a true mark of where our program is. I don't know if you can ever do that in one game. I do want to see how we compete, though.

"It's kind of neat to get this chance. It will be fun, but at the same time, we have a difficult assignment, maybe as difficult as anyone in our league."

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Rodriguez noted that one of the fields at the University of North Florida might not be available for practice, but that it shouldn't affect his team's preparations.

"We didn't use it last year either," he observed.

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Rodriguez remained watchful about giving away any secrets to the Seminoles. When asked whether watching film from common opponents Syracuse and Maryland would help West Virginia prepare, he explained why that was not as helpful as one might think.

"Because they don't run the same schemes, it's not very helpful." Syracuse and Maryland don't run the same offense and defense that we do, so you don't get to see how they would play us. The things that help you most are seeing them play against a team with the same schemes as us."

When asked what FSU opponents were the most similar to West Virginia, Rodriguez laughed and said, "I don't want to tell you that, because then they will know what films we are watching. I will say that a lot of teams changed things specifically for the FSU game. We've seen a lot of instances where teams do something they don't normally do against Florida State. That's what I've noticed more than anything."

"We have to do what we do well," Rodriguez summarized in response to a query about his own tweaks to the game plan. "You only have a couple of weeks to prepare. "There's always a wrinkle or two, and we'll work on those when finals are over."

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