"It is really the last full-scale scrimmage we will have," head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We need guys to play and get snaps in there. We're trying to install a few new things on offense and defense, and this was the last day in shorts, so we got that in. We need to get some kicking in live, too. It's hard to do that because it is hard to get the scout team to look like you want it to. We'll do some live special teams next week, too. The special teams will not be live in the spring game."
The injury front remained unchanged except that corner Larry Williams was back in a blue (full contact defense) jersey, tailback Jet Best was in green and Keilen Dykes was in red after a left ankle sprain. The defensive lineman is not expected to participate tomorrow. Fellow lineman James Ingram was in green, and could be cleared for full contact as early as Monday.
That left Darius Reynaud in red. His status on a full return from a groin injury remains unsettled because it is a nagging ailment that is easily aggravated. Jay Henry (back), Rayshawn Bolden (foot), tight end Brad Palmer and defensive tackle Jason Karns were also in red. Darren Brownlee, Adam Bednarik, Nate Sowers – who finally threw, but was a bit off and slung the ball a bit – and Tom Contraguerro were again in green. Ryan Dawson hurt is leg in the middle of drills when he was accidentally hit on the sidelines after a long reception. He aggravated the slight sprain three plays later, and by the end of practice was lying on the field with a full back of ice on his knee. He is questionable for the scrimmage tomorrow.
Sowers, Rodriguez said, will play, but be limited by no contact. His throws looked a bit off today, and he threw badly wide of two receivers, one of which was broken up by Williams as one of his two BPUs of the day.
"That is going to make it difficult to really evaluate him," Rodriguez said of Sowers, "but there's not much we can do. We had a lot of guys standing around in red and green today, so we'll see who shows up tomorrow. It is giving the young guys a chance, though."
"I thought a few guys showed up on offense. I didn't think we were as competitive as we needed to be. We have a little scoring system and we will keep score tomorrow, so maybe that will get the juices flowing. But Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt won't get a lot of reps and Pat White won't be live. It will be difficult there to judge that part. With the number of guys we will have out, especially at wide receiver – Darius Reynaud will not be practicing – it is a little difficult. I am more looking for improvement out of the young guys and then I am looking for improved attitude out of all of them."
Most of what WVU installed today appeared to be pass packages, though that might have been because of the shorts-only practice. The quarterbacks worked with the wideouts against the defensive backfield on patterns. The focus was on a lot of deep passing, as the receivers tried to explode out of routes and not playing one speed, which is easily covered by defenders.
"A day like today, in shorts, is a day when you really want to work on passing," Rodriguez said. "We have been able to run the ball pretty well, but we haven't been able to throw it as well as we'd like. If we can run the ball as well as we have been, that will help. But we know teams are going to load up and force us to throw. We have guys that can do that, we just have to do it."
Tight end Adam Serena had the best catch of the day as he came down with a well-thrown ball on a pattern near the sidelines. The defender jumped and, when he failed to get a piece of the ball, Serena had nobody behind him and ran 60-plus yards for the 80-yard touchdown. The coaches did not blow the whistle because they had a lot of players loafing on many previous snaps.
The offensive line got a more intense workout, as it practiced with some of the quarterbacks, tailbacks and fullbacks on base blocking out of varying play sets, matching up correctly, or "fitting" a defender, which were other offensive linemen. The defensive line did much the same, again working fundamentals like keeping position on plays and correctly reading the oncoming blocks before being inserted into full defensive sets while the complete offense worked on the new play packages.
WVU also toiled on special teams for 10 minutes. They practiced a punt coverage drill out of the traditional and rugby kicks. Keeping lanes and flowing properly to the ball were key skills taken from the reps. All kickers also worked on handling snaps being fed to them via the jugs machine, and the proper drops for punts.
Wrestler Jared Villers practiced today on defense. He is trying to play football after two years as a wrestler. The 6-2, 197-pound sophomore, a native of Akron, Ohio, played football at Illinois State before coming to West Virginia. He became WVU's sixth NCAA qualifier with a wrestling wild-card berth as a freshman (2005) and was an all-state football selection at St. Vincent-St. Mary's High. Villers is expected to play either linebacker or spur.
"He wants to give it a shot," Rodriguez said. "He a wrestler who got a little football passion. It's hard for me to evaluate him because (by NCAA rules) he has to go the first couple days in shorts. He wants to take a look at it, and we'll take a look at him over the next couple days."
Rodriguez was asked if he had a personal profile on MySpace.com, a popular internet site where people can post information about themselves and exchange messages with other members. The sixth-year coach said he did not post one on the site, but there is a Rodriguez profile on MySpace.com, complete with a photo and description of Rodriguez's family, among other made up "favorites" like food and music.
Rodriguez said he did create CoachRod.com, but that the MySpace profile is completely fake.
"That one's legit," Rodriguez said of CoachRod.com. "That other one, that ain't me. There must be some other Rich Rodriguez out there. Can they do that? We got a suit coming. I better contact my lawyer. Rita, my wife did not say anything about that. My son, Rhett, knows more about computers than I do and he did not say anything. None of us get on the internet except once in awhile to find out about a recruit. I better check that out, huh? That's scary."