The second week of Mountaineer football camp opened under dark skies, and although some sprinkles fell on the players Monday morning, head coach Rich Rodriguez' outlook was generally more sunny than the weather.
"Practice this morning was o.k.," Rodriguez said of the session, which was conducted in shorts and shoulder pads. "It was a little crisper, but that's to be expected with the day off." WVU will practice this afternoon in full pads, where Rodriguez hopes a carryover in the intensity of the morning drills continues.
The coach, now in his fifth year at West Virginia, is looking for a quickening of pace as the second week commences.
"I hope everything gets quicker," Rodriguez said of the pace he hopes to see, in terms of both scheme installation and improvement. "We've already started decreasing the number of reps for the youngsters and players we anticipate redshirting. We did give them about fifteen minutes at the end of practice today, just to get them on film, and then we'll do the same on Tuesday and in the scrimmage on Wednesday. After that, we really have to concentrate on getting reps for the ones and twos."
While Rodriguez would love to spend more time with the younger players, he knows he has to concentrate on building experience on his depth chart. While the Mountaineers are deep at several positions, he points out that it's young depth.
"That is an area of concern for us, because most of our depth is redshirt freshmen and sophomores," Rodriguez explained. "I am worried about that, especially if we get some injuries.
The coaches are still evaluating freshmen, but there is no doubt a number will avoid a redshirt. In addition to Jason Gwaltney, Steve Slaton, Pat McAfee and Scott Kozlowski, Rodriguez mentioned Jeremy Bruce, Charles Pugh, Quinton Andrews, Johnny Holmes and Ovid Goulbourne as players that are candidates to play this fall.
The offensive line declined all interview requests on Monday.
Owen Schmitt, Thandi Smith and Bobby Hathaway will all be on scholarship this fall.
The quarterbacks, again presumably due to the day off, were a bit sharper on Monday. Rodriguez said the battle for number one is still wide open.
"Pat and Adam are alternating with the ones," Rodriguez said of the current battle, "and J.R. and Dwayne are running with the twos. Pat and Adam are very close – too close to call right now. Of course, it can be hard to separate [during practice]. We will have to look at how they perform during scrimmages, and who makes the fewest mistakes. And it could be in the first game, too."
Asked to compare Pat White's level of play at this point in his career in comparison to Rasheed Marshall, Rodriguez opined that White might be a bit ahead, but noted that White has the benefit of playing with veterans who have been in the system for several years, whereas Marshall and all of his teammates were learning a new scheme.
Rodriguez reiterated that he is not averse to playing two QBs in the opener at Syracuse.
On the injury front, Travis Garrett has missed a couple of days with ankle and foot sprains. That could open the door for a push by Chris Bassler, who has shown great promise. Abraham Jones is still recovering from the hit he took from Eric Wicks' knee last week, but tests have proven negative, and he is expected to be back on the field sometime this week. In his absence, freshman Quinton Andrews has been running with the second team.
Walkon Tim Reed continues to impress. "We think he has a very good future at center," Rodriguez said. Dan Mozes and Jeremy Sheffey have gotten work at the center spot as well.
There will likely be seven defensive linemen in the primary rotation this fall. Craig Wilson, Ernest Hunter, Keilen Dykes, Andrae Wright, Johnny Dingle, Pat Liebig and Warren Young appear to be the front runners to hold down those spots. Rodriguez added that Liebig and Young are having their best camps ever.
Running backs Jason Gwaltney and Steve Slaton continue to draw praise. Rodriguez noted that while both of them are still making mistakes, they are quick to correct them.