Rivers Carving Out a New Path

There wasn't a lot that stood out about Friday's football practice at Milan Puskar Stadium. The biggest story of the day, without a doubt, was the news that Vaughn Rivers had shed his blue defensive practice jersey for a white offensive shirt.

When West Virginia signed Rivers, a sophomore from Perry Traditional Academy in Pittsburgh, there were rumblings about his athletic ability. Mountaineer coaches thought he would be a great addition to the defensive backfield, a threat returning kickoffs, and potentially play some slot receiver for the Blue and Gold. The first two were accomplished last season, and on Wednesday, Vaughn completed the trifecta.

"We wanted to bring a certain attitude, more than anything, to that group, and Vaughn is a very competitive guy," explained head coach Rich Rodriguez of the move. "We've got a need at slot receiver, and I think he's going to work out pretty good."

Rivers looked pretty comfortable out on the field on his first day in the white jersey. He admits that there's still a ton of work ahead of him before he's a bona fide threat on offense, but he's willing to stick it out.

"I know it sounds like a cliché, but whatever benefits the team," says Rivers. "I've seen that we've been kind of struggling. We have a lot of DB's, but not a lot of receivers. So if I can go over there and help out, then I'm glad the coaches approached me about it."

This isn't the first time we've seen a switch like this in Morgantown. Abraham Jones and Jermaine Moye both switched to receiver mid-season 2004. Jones is back on defense this fall, and Moye is no longer with the program. Also, Mountaineer fans will recall the special plays for Pacman Jones, who would often take reverses lined up as a slot receiver.

Rivers said it was a graduate of another West Virginia Division I school that he thought of when asked to switch positions.

"When coach first told me I was switching I thought ‘Troy Brown,'" said Rivers of the standout on three world champion New England Patriots teams. Brown, a Patriot veteran at wideout, became a nickel back this past season with New England when injuries depleted their secondary.

Rodriguez said that athleticism wasn't the only thing the coaching staff had in mind when making the decision to move Vaughn across the line of scrimmage.

"We haven't had the competitiveness out of the receivers as a group. Vaughn might instill that right away, I have a feeling," said Rodriguez.

Rivers thinks that playing defensive back will actually help him as a receiver, to some extent.

"It does. They both use so much footwork and techniques. On defense you're making the reads, but on offense you're making all the controls and establishing the routes."

But on the other hand...

"It's a different game: a different type of running, a different type of conditioning, but I like it a lot," says the confident, but soft spoken Pennsylvanian. "I've just got to keep on learning my routes, and once I get that down, I'll feel as natural as I was at DB."

If things don't work out for Rivers in the slot, Rodriguez says he'll be fine back on defense.

"We can make a determination, and he's such a smart guy, that at the end of the next five days we could move him back to defense if we needed to and he wouldn't miss a beat."

But for the time being, Rivers is ready to set sail on a different boat.

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