Spring Start

West Virginia's spring drills start today, and head coach Rich Rodriguez provided a rundown of players, positions and what to watch for leading into the April 15 spring game.

The biggest announcement coming out of the session was that quarterback Adam Bednarik's throwing shoulder has not improved as expected and might require surgery. It is unknown as of now, but he will be closely monitored throughout spring drills. The surgery, if needed, would be season-ending because it would sideline him for months and require the same rest and rehabilitation that he progressed through before.

The other significant injury was to receiver Rayshawn Bolden, who broke his foot in the Sugar Bowl win over No. 7 Georgia and will miss all of spring practice. The senior should heal in time for summer lifting and fall camp. Brad Palmer had minor knee surgery and will "probably be out all spring," according to Rodriguez.

"We are not totally sure what Adam's situation is yet," Rodriguez said. "He was fixed last year but played with some pain, but Dave Kerns, our trainer, said it is still unknown."

Position moves include running back Pernell Willaims switching to cornerback. Williams asked for the switch, and the coaches felt it would be a solid move with the tailback depth and the availability of playing time at corner. Fellow back Jason Colson will still play slot wideout and running back, and newcomer Jet Best will get an immediate look at tailback.

Receiver Jeremy Bruce, who missed the Sugar Bowl with injuries, will get a chance at running back and receiver behind a line where all players will be able to play motile positions in case of injury. Mike Dent will get time at center and guard, Jeremy Sheffey will work in at center as well, and the starting center, Dan Mozes, will also play guard.

West Virginia will also work in greyshirts as needed. The major area of concern is the secondary, which was depleted by graduation. Free safety Trippe Hale will see action there, while wideout Carmen Connolly, who also counts against the 2006 class, could slide into the eight-deep wideout rotation.

Look for other players like Abraham Jones and Quinton Andrews to fight for what is perceived to be the more open defensive backfield slots. Larry Williams and Antonio Lewis are expected to be the corners. After that, though, the two-deep is wide open. And, in the fall, incoming true freshman could also compete.

"That rule that allows them to come in during the summer, well, I don't think guys like Slaton could have do what they have without it," Rodriguez said. "It really gives them a chance to get a jumpstart on things."

West Virginia also must find a replacement holder for George Shehl, who Rodriguez calls perhaps the best holder in WVU history. Shehel did not mishandle a snap in his career. Receiver and Lewisburg, W.Va. native Travis McClintic will start spring practice there. Scott Kozlowski will get the first chance at Phil Brady's vacated punter position.

"No jobs are set," Rodriguez said. "Nobody earns a job in spring practice. That's decided the week before we play Marshall. But what they can do is show enough, show us that we can win with them, and they are good enough to play."

Two players, tight end Lou Davis and linebacker Ben Clemmons, are transferring to smaller schools for more playing time. Davis will go to Fairmont State, while Clemmons is still unsure of his school.

"They are great kids, but they just wanted to play more," Rodriguez said. "We will sit with each and every player after spring is over and let them know exactly where they are and what to expect."

WVU's spring game will be nationally televised for the first time. It will appear on ESPNU as part of a tape delay telecast. Rodriguez said he would still allow fans to call plays, but that the format might change.

"We used the offense vs. defense last year because of our shortage of lineman," Rodriguez said. "We might switch that. But we'll have some fun. It will be some of our guys' best shot to be on TV. They will want to play, though it will be a watered-down spring game. Somebody from Huntington might be watching. What they see on TV won't really be Mountaineer football."

Roriguez also noted that nothing has been finalized on WVU's game with Buffalo. The sixth-year coach did not sound overly optimistic that the game will be played.

"I have started looking at tapes of all our opponents except Buffalo," he said. "Buffalo is still listed on the schedule, but I am not preparing to get Buffalo tapes. Until they let us know something officially, though, it is not for sure."


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