Rod Report - Day Two

West Virginia picked up the practice pace Tuesday as players were quick to grasp schemes and execute crisply and with fewer mistakes, according to head coach Rich Rodriguez.

"When we ended practice we cut off 20 minutes," Rodriguez said. "It was the same schedule. In a week I hope we can get 24 periods done in 24 periods. We took a step forward."

The Mountaineers did a lot of individual drills, but were able to mix in 15 minutes of team work and 20 minutes of skeleton pass drills. The remainder was line work. Because of the newcomers, WVU is installing its offense as its slowest rate since Rodriguez's first season. However, that didn't stop the Mountaineers from accomplishing much more on Day Two of fall camp.

"We are getting into the finer points of each play that I don't think even the veterans knew," Rodriguez said. "I think it will help us in the long run."

Rodriguez touched on the anticipated strength along the defensive line. He noted that the versatility as the best in his five seasons. Ernest Hunter and Craig Wilson, Rodriguez said, can play inside or outside. Keilen Dykes and Warren Young play both end slots. That's big when, especially along the offensive and defensive lines, one worries about injury.

Quarterback play has picked up since the start. The play was better overall, and the running back position has increased its crispness. Newcomers Steve Slaton and Jason Gwaltney have picked up the offense well.

"There's no question those guys will be ready to play," Rodriguez said. "The spring helped them because they took a lot of reps. They are tough guys, but they are not ready yet."

Gwaltney, especially, is not in game shape. The now-235 pound superback came in at 245 pounds. That was fine for the bruising, power running game at North Babylon (Long Island) High. But Gwaltney's ideal playing weight at West Virginia is 230 or fewer pounds.

"If he had not been here the second term of summer he would not have even been close," Rodriguez said. "I remember when he got here in July, (strength coach Mike Barwis) said it was tough on him. Now it is still tough, but not nearly as tough. He's 235 and losing weight quickly."

WVU has only put a handful of runs in. But Gwaltney and Slaton have been disciplined in the techniques taught by running back coach Calvin Magee.

Rodriguez also praised defensive back Antonio Lewis' mentality.

"He is as good a competitor as we have on our football team," Rodriguez said. "He and (fellow DB) Larry Williams have impressed me. He will have a chance to play a lot of football, especially on special teams."

Lewis is returning punts, and is regarded as a dangerous runner in the open field. Like Adam Jones, however, Lewis will give one the occasional scare by trying to make a big play instead of calling for the fair catch.

West Virginia's next two practices are in shoulder pads and helmets. The first full-uniform practice is Thursday. The players are still getting a full day of practice in, however despite the reduced number of two-a-days (only four are scheduled). They will lift weights in the morning, then view film and have meetings and walk-throughs before the lone afternoon session.

"Hey, we put the pads on tomorrow," defensive lineman Keilen Dykes. "Oh, it's going to get fun now. Now the real action starts. We can hit a bit."

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