Spring Scrimmage II Preview

West Virginia's coaching staff gets a much-awaited chance to evaluate individual talent in game-like situations when the Mountaineers hold their second spring scrimmage today.

The 12:30 p.m. scrimmage will be fully officiated, and allow head coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff to watch how younger players react after six practices and one other scrimmage without coaches providing instruction before and after every play.

"I am anxious to see a scrimmage," Rodriguez said. "What we have been doing so far, the coaches have had to stand around behind them and correct them. The scrimmages, they are kind of on their own. I think there will be a lot of mistakes. But I am hoping they will execute a little bit."

The scrimmage will be full contact, but will not feature full-speed special teams. The chance for injury is higher on special teams, especially when rushing the punter of tackling returners. Of special attention will be the long snapper (Tim Lindsey) and holder (Travis McClintic) spots, which were vacated after last season. The quarterbacks are also expected to be off-limits, meaning the whistle will be blown when defenders get close, instead of when contact is made.

"We will do a couple special teams," Rodriguez said. "We will do some individual warm-up. We won't do full, live special teams all spring. We will work on things, but they will not be live."

Rodriguez also noted that West Virginia will begin to scale back the reps of known players like Pat White, Steve Slaton and Boo McLee in order to give developing players more time, both to get better and to be evaluated. The known commodities have seen their time and taken the majority of repetitions thus far. Now that the reserves have enough base knowledge and experience to run some sets and plays, they will be utilized more to give coaches a true feel for their game ability.

"We have not (done that) yet," Rodriguez said of limiting the reps of surefire starters. "But we will as the spring goes along. I am conscious of that. The problem is, you take a few of those guys out and they are in pretty important positions, particularly like Dan Mozes. Pat, he is not going to get hit anyway, so he can take the reps. But guys like Steve Slaton, we will start to limit him a bit. But you take him out, and other than Jason Colson, who is hobbling a little bit, everybody else is new. But we will scale them back, and they will not play much in the spring game, I can tell you that."

WVU also needs to see players in new positions. John Holmes moved from outside linebacker to the spur position, while others, like Pernell Williams (tailback to corner), Jeremy Bruce (receiver and tailback) and Jason Colson (receiver and tailback) are either playing a new position or multiple positions. Players that seem set at new slots include Tyler Benoit, who has remained at tailback, and Vaughn Rivers, a former wideout who started on defense and is now expected to stay on at corner. There are other positions, mainly receiver, where other moves might need to be made to bolster the lineup.

"Judged on the last couple practices, I think those moves may turn out pretty good," Rodriguez said. "I think Tyler has a chance to help us at running back. I think Vaughn is comfortable at corner. I am disappointed at times with some of the receivers. At times they are pretty good. (Friday) they had some good things. Then there were other things where you were like ‘Gee, whiz, we need some more help out there.' I want to play more people. That's the goal. But they have to be able to help us win and prove they can be consistent on a higher level."

Scooter Berry has also permanently switched to the defensive line. The 6-1, 280-pounder was recruited as a fullback, but with the emergence of Owen Schmitt and Berry's body size and foot speed, he has proven a natural in the early stages.

"I think our defensive coaches think he is doing pretty well," Rodriguez said. "I think (DL coach Bill Kirlawich) is pretty excited about what he can do. He has got a long way to go. He is still a puppy. But we saw enough with that move -- because he is another guy that could play on either side -- that we think that is probably the position he will stay at for sure."

There is no set number of plays for the scrimmage, and the coaches might still stop it if instruction is needed. The anticipated 120-minute outing also could yield some surprises, as past spring scrimmages have, or some players that might move into a more solid status at a position.

"You find a few answers," Rodriguez said. "I don't know that if a guy has a good scrimmage that he proves himself right there. But guys show up, guys that you say ‘Boy, he went the wrong way, but he went the wrong way pretty fast and made some plays.' I am anxious to see that. I have an idea what Pat White and Steve Slaton and Boo McLee and those guys can do. I want to see some of those other guys compete without somebody telling them what to do every step of the way."

The Blue and Gold News and www.BlueGoldNews.com will have complete coverage of the scrimmage.

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