Rod Report - Day Seven

West Virginia had a crisp 90-minute practice Saturday. Unfortunately, the next 60 minutes was a mix of lay-down defense and average offense.

No players were overcome by heat, but head coach Rich Rodriguez joked that some didn't even go, as they were overcome before the heat could do it.

"It's the same old thing every year," Rodriguez said. "Players have to know the difference between pain and injury. We never want players to play with an injury -- ever. But sometimes if you have pain and you are not injured you have to push through it. You can't make the club in the tub, as they say."

The defense played well for the first half of practice. It kept a solid level of intensity and attacked the offense. The offense got a pair of first downs on drives and scored twice, both in red zone situations.

West Virginia worked four series in the field, two in the red zone and two in goal line in its first scrimmage. There were many penalties -- some procedure and holding calls that can easily be corrected.

The quarterback play was average, Rodriguez said. None of the quarterbacks played at a championship level, but all did good and bad things. Rodriguez likes that the quarterbacks are correcting their mistakes and often know they messed up as soon as it happens.

Kickoff return and field goals were also worked. Rodriguez was pleased with the kickoff return. Antonio Lewis and Vaughn Rivers are probable first team kick returners. Brandon Myles, Darius Reynaud and Tyler Benoit will also see time.

Pat McAfee was put under pressure and "made a couple kicks, but he missed a couple, too," Rodriguez said. "We gotta try to get him to feel the pressure before we get up to Syracuse."

The Mountaineers went first team vs. first team. It will view film this afternoon and tomorrow, when players have a day off before practicing twice a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Players will also receive treatments this Sunday.

"It's not really getting a firm depth chart," Rodriguez said. "But we kind of want a feel as to who is ready and who is not ready."

WVU will again scrimmage Wednesday before their first full-scale scrimmage Saturday. The two tests will show West Virginia exactly where it is before classes begin Aug. 22.

"We really have to concentrate and focus in on getting this team mentally and physically ready to go next week," Rodriguez said. "I wish we had another week. I am nervous that one more won't be enough. I think condition-wise we are in shape. Mentally we have to pace ourselves."

The offensive and defensive line play should be among the best unit battles in camp. Both are expected to be impressive.

"Toward the end they were just leaning on each other," Rodriguez said. "That turf was hot, those little, black pebbles were steaming a bit and they just leaned. I guess they thought it was sand and they leaned on each other like a day at the beach. It was good heat, though. We need more of it."

There were no injuries today, but tailback Pernell Williams did not practice because of a helmet shot to the chest he took Friday. Before then, he had a very good practice. Jason Colson fumbled once today. Both are first-team on the depth chart.

The coaches are working with Jason Gwaltney and Steve Slaton so both will be able to run at least a handful of plays against Syracuse.

"I don't know if we were hitting hard enough to get injured," Rodriguez said. "But like I said, the first part of scrimmage was good and intense. But I was not pleased with the end of it. It was hard to tell because the defensive coaches were scrambling to get guys in there."

RIFLE REPORTS

  • Pacman Jones was at WVU's practices Friday and Saturday. He also chatted with Mickey Furfari briefly in the Puskar Center.

    "He says he is in shape," Rodriguez said. "I told him he has to get in camp. He is anxious, really anxious to get in camp, which is where he needs to be. I am sure something will work out there pretty quickly."

  • Defensive back Abraham Jones spent Friday night at the WVU hospital for a neck sprain suffered when he ran into Eric Wicks' knee diving for a loose ball. He was released and walked around the field during WVU's drills today.

    He will be further tested to ensure his safety before returning to practice.

  • Brandon Barret is making progress, but "did not make any today," according to Rodriguez.

    "He struggled," the fifth-year coach said. "He is still out of shape, lost, and doesn't know what we're doing. It's kinda hard to evaluate guys when they are like that."

  • WVU has decided to redshirt freshman quarterback Nate Sowers. It is likely that Jarrett Brown and T. J. Mitchell will also be redshirted.

  • Tailback Erick Phillips is still four to five weeks from being fully released. If he can do it, then he will play. If not, his career will be over, Rodriguez said.

  • Owen Schmitt continues to impress. He has the skills to play the tailback position, Rodriguez said. He cited Schmitt's physicallness and understanding of WVU's schemes as assets.

    "He gives us a little different dimension," Rodriguez said. "He will play a lot of football for us."


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