Highlighting the day was a position switch by Vaughn Rivers from defensive back to wide receiver. The speedy, athletic sophomore could end up playing both ways when the season rolls around, but today worked exclusively with the offense. Rivers was part of the nickel package last season in the secondary, and also returns kicks. With thin numbers at the receiver position, particularly in the slot, and a stable of young defensive backs that are all good enough to play, Rivers seemed like the best fit for a switch. He looked about as comfortable as you can be on day one at a new position, and showed he's willing to work hard by staying after practice to work with receivers coach Butch Jones.
The theme of the day was tempo. All of the seven on seven drills were run at a fast pace. With such a young team, mistakes should be expected at this tempo, and things were admittedly helter skelter for a bit. After a while though, players on both sides of the ball got more comfortable with the pace, and began to make plays.
Dwayne Thompson looked crisp both running and passing, making some nice decisions on when to do each. Pernell Williams had some solid runs, and Erick Phillips continues to work himself back into shape after sitting out last season, and part of 2003, with a torn knee. Williams and Phillips each got more carries in the absence of Jason Colson, who was wearing the red no-practice jersey after spraining his ankle on Monday.
Overall, the defense is still ahead of the offense as far as installation and familiarity, but improvement has been evident on both sides of the ball. Head coach Rich Rodriguez echoed those thoughts.
"I think you can tell where some of the experience is and where it isn't. I'm not worried about that right now though, I'm worried about effort and consistency, and fundamentals. Some of that we're getting better at slowly, not as fast as I'd like to, but you can see it's coming," said Rodriguez following the conclusion of practice.
The defensive line got some pointers and help today from NFL veteran, and Mountaineer alum, John Thornton. The man they call "Thunder" was in town checking out practice. He's currently a defensive lineman for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Other than that it was business as usual at the stadium today.
Tomorrow morning the team will hold their second scrimmage of the week.