Two Goals

While all eyes are on the WVU basketball team as it prepares for its first round NCAA tournament game, Mountaineer head football coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff are gearing up for spring practice, which begins next week. Rodriguez says he has two main goals for the coming spring session, which runs through the Gold-Blue Game on April 16th.

"First, we want to teach a lot of the techniques and fundamentals to the players going through their first spring practice," Rodriguez explained. "There were be a lot of young guys in there, and we need to help them learn the system. We also need to get an idea of who may be on our two deep in the fall, and get an idea of who will be the active guys on the team.

"This is one of the most important spring practices since I've been here because on the number of young and new guys who will be playing this year," the Grant Town, W.Va. native continued. "Last spring was a lot of fine tuning, but this spring we will have to answer a lot of questions."

One of those questions, of course, is who the starting quarterback will be. Asked if the decision would be made on a starting quarterback this spring, Rodriguez responded in the negative.

"Probably not, because Adam Bednarik won't be able to go. For Pat White and Dwayne Thompson, it will be invaluable for them; a great chance to get a lot of reps."

Bednarik, who is still recovering from shoulder surgery and is not ready to undergo the rigors of daily throwing yet, still holds a big advantage in experience, even though he has very little game time under his belt. And while Rodriguez values that attribute above many others, he is not ready to anoint the Pennsylvania native as the starter.

"I think the experience at QB is invaluable," Rodriguez said "There's no substitute for experience in the same system, and Adam will have that advantage. But Pat and Dwayne are talented enough to compete for the job, and Dwayne has been around here for a couple of years, even though he was a wide receiver last year. Pat is very intelligent, and he probably learned as much as anyone in his first year."

However, no matter how much talent or practice experience his quarterbacks have, Rodriguez knows he will have to move slowly as he identifies and begins working with his top signalcallers. "[There will be some] growing pains," Rodriguez admitted. "No matter who the quarterback is, it will be his first time under the gun. We have to understand that as coaches. I believe they all have the intangibles like leadership, command of their teammates, and a certain calmness on the field that you look for, but we won't pick a starter until August."


Rodriguez was as fired up as anyone over the basketball team's run to the Big East championship game.

"I'm a basketball fan as well, and I'm excited to see how well they've done. They are playing together, and they have been successful. I'm excited for John and his staff and players, because it validates what you are doing in your program. Even when they had a bump in the road, they kept doing got them there. It's a great thing for their team, and they deserve a lot of attention. I am just tickled to death for them.

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Rodriguez isn't overjoyed about opening the season on the road at conference foe Syracuse, but had an inkling that the schedule might turn out like that.

"We usually don't open with a conference game, but I figured something like that would happen due to the TV contract. We were nervous because we had that first date open. The hard part about that game is that you can do prep over summer for your first couple of opponents, but you don't know what they will do because of their new coaching staff."

West Virginia last opened the season against a conference opponent in Rodriguez' first game at West Virginia. The Mountaineers dropped that game, also a road contest.

"You had to remind me of that, didn't you," Rodriguez joked. "The difference in the B.C. game is that we had an idea of what they would do. This one is even more challenging. I'm sure they will have a big crowd for it, since it is the opening game and they will have a new coach."

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The recent release of J.R. House by the Pirates didn't take long to spark another round of speculation about his football career. House has indicated that he might look at football again in the future, and Rodriguez said he would be open to talking with the former West Virginia star if he was interested.

"I don't know what his baseball situation is; I don't know what he is thinking," said Rodriguez, who will begin his fifth season next week. "We have a good relationship and we've talked in the past, so if he's interested we'd certainly talk to him."

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In addition to Bednarik, guards Dan Mozes and Jeremy Sheffey, along with tight end Josh Bailey and walk-on linebacker Justin Hensley will miss the spring while recovering from surgery.

"You want your starters to get some practice, but will get some young guys some time at those positions," Rodriguez noted. Among the candidates at guard are Zac Napier, redshirt freshmen Mike Dent, Jake Figner and Ryan Stanchek, and walkons Jeremy Moore and Aaron Howell.

"Jeremy Moore has really come on," Rodriguez observed.

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If bad weather strikes during the spring, practices will likely be cancelled and moved back rather than moving to the Caperton Indoor Center.

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