The Mountaineers will go through what head coach Rich Rodriguez termed a dry run of its base game plan this Friday at its annual Beanie Bowl. The game is a dress rehearsal for the opening game, complete with players getting into full gear and coaches attempting to communicate signals, play calls and other information.
WVU had its last major hitting practice Wednesday, and will now begin dialing contact back over the next 10 days in preparation for Syracuse. It tackled to the ground but will not do so Thursday and Friday. It will bump and wrap up, but not take players to the deck.
"We're not ready, but we're more ready every day," Rodriguez said. "The minor injuries are still hampering our progress because all those guys have a chance to play."
WVU has made its travel squad selections for Syracuse, but has not named starters for specific positions. There are co-starters at quarterback (Adam Bednarik and Pat White), tailback (Pernell Williams and Jason Colson) and wide receiver (Thompson and Rayshawn Bolden).
"I don't play for 10 days, so why would I name a quarterback," Rodriguez said. "It's different philosophies. Some coaches want to name a quarterback and let everyone settle in. I want whoever the quarterback is to be settled.
"I will name them when I am ready to name them. That might not be for seven, eight, nine days. I think more is made of that than needs to be. They both can play."
Rodriguez said he does not have a plan to insert Bednarik or White into the games on preset conditions, such as drive number or at the start of new quarters. The game flow and current play of the quarterback will be decisive.
"If I tell both they will play, they will play," Rodriguez said. "But if one guy is hot, the last thing I am going to do is take him out and let him cool off. If he's moving the ball up and down and scoring touchdowns and getting points then let him keep going.
"Inevitably, quarterbacks will cool off. But I don't want them looking over their shoulder, either, thinking they will come out with one mistake. Both give us an extra dimension."
Rodriguez said Syracuse naming its quarterback (Perry Patterson) does not help WVU's preparation.
"We don't know what they will do anyway," Rodriguez said. "That doesn't tell us what they will do."
Rodriguez used to script the first 20 plays of a game and stuck to it. Now WVU scripts 15-20 that it wants to run in the first half, but they plays do not follow consecutively.
"You get off the script so easily that we found it was almost a waste of time to try to stay with it," Rodriguez said. "But especially in this game we will script that, but we have to be ready to come off the script pretty quick because there is so much guess work as to how they will defend us and the scheme.
"You can't overload freshmen, but you can be too simple, too. Hey, you only have three timeouts. I just hope we don't use them all in the first quarter."
The major concern of any team is going full speed in the kicking game. That risks the most injury per play because of its speed. West Virginia did a handful of snaps at full speed, but did not go first team versus first team because so many players are on both units.
"You don't get the same look," Rodriguez said. "Any coach will tell you that's the hardest thing to get a look at. Some coaches wait until exhibition games. We don't have them."
Johnny Holmes, Reed Williams, Pat McAfee and Quinton Andrews are expected to play as freshmen. They are four of a potential nine or 10 players that could play as true freshmen -- the most of any Mountaineer team in recent memory.
"It's one, because of need and two, because of talent," Rodriguez said. "We have a lot of spots open and we are making a conscientious effort to play more players. Those guys are also pretty talented for first-year players.
"If they are ready and can help us win, then by all means we will play them. There is no reason not to. Like I said before: ‘Why save them for the next coach, right?' Maybe I am not here in five years."
Charles Pugh has had NCAA Clearinghouse issues, but West Virginia expects those to be cleared by as early as Thursday. The 6-1, 205-pound defensive back will play if cleared.
The Kissimmee, Fla. native attended another high school before graduating from Edgewater. He has had transcipt problems, but is fully qualified in grade point average and test scores.
J.R. House is getting closer everyday to being able to play. Bednarik said he thought House could play, but did not know all that would ideally be needed to run West Virginia's offense at full capacity. House's arm strength is still not at 100 percent. Bednarik said his is close.
"Those guys have been in the system a few years," Rodriguez said of Bednarik and White. "In college football that is huge."
Quotes of the Day
Rodriguez, on an AP release putting Gwaltney's Heisman Trophy odds at 100-to-1: "This year? Is that right? Well, they are looking for news. What's the next odds, if he'll play against Syracuse? Maybe the quarterback race?
Rodriguez, on defensive lineman Warren Young's frequent trips to the training room: "He's fine. I think he likes it in there. They must be giving away cookies or something, ‘cause he is in there ‘bout every other day."
Rodriguez, on his team's response to his call for toughness: "I think we have had better practices this week. Last Saturday was a pillow fight. We've had those throughout the years."