"I think we are in pretty good shape," Rodriguez said. "The guys were cramping up, but that doesn't mean they were not in shape, it just means they lost a lot of water. We did not have as many cramp up, but we still have conditioning left. We are slowly getting into the game shape we need."
West Virginia's coaching staff allows plenty of water/Gatorade breaks, and even gives players ice chips or Popsicles if needed. Strength coach Mike Barwis, considered among the best in his field, leads all stretches to try and ensure that players are loose enough not to suffer injuries. The team, down to each individual, will tell one that they are in the best shape ever, and that the work during summer was as hard as it has been. That can't always help every player, especially ones which weren't here, as evidenced by a slight injury to cornerback Greg Davis tweaked a hamstring yesterday and was in a green (limited contact) jersey.
"He is out of shape," Rodriguez said. "He is the only freshman who was not here because he was finishing class work, and you can tell it. Some guys, when they pull hamstrings it is because they are not in shape. But the way the rules are designed, it is to get your guys in shape. We're not there yet, but we are getting better. We didn't do as much running today, so it was not as bad."
Know, too, that Rodriguez works his team very hard, and he might just be trying to keep them motivated in the face of mounting national exposure and expectations. West Virginia broke the team huddle for the first practice with a chant of ‘Get Better!' and there is proof that it did just that. The first practice was marred by dropped passes, but there were more completions on a day that, at least early, was dominated by special teams work.
"It had to be a little bit better," Rodriguez said, joking about yesterday's lack of catches. "The execution was better on offense we did not have as many balls dropped as we did."
West Virginia practiced on the grass field adjacent to the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility. That's rare for the Mountaineers under Rodriguez, who prefers the turf on Mountaineer Field inside Milan Puskar Stadium.
"The turf has a tendency to get a little hotter, but the heat was not much of an issue today," Rodriguez said. "We need a couple more days of good heat out there and see how we do. Our practice tempo is pretty quick, and if they are not in shape now, they sure will be in shape by game time."
Rodriguez on –
The punting game: "Both of them have punted well," Rodriguez said of Pat McAfee and Scott Kozlowski, the former of which has seemingly locked up the placekicking position. "Pat McAfee has punted well and Scott Kozlowski has punted real well. We ask a lot of them. The last two days, in shorts, have been the best they have looked. I'd rather have two goys doing it, where Pat McAfee would just kick and Scott Kozlowski would just punt."
The offensive line and its depth: "I really like our young offensive linemen, from what I have seen in shorts. You can't tell much. The young guys, there are some good players. John Bradshaw, he is second (team, at tackle). Greg Isdaner is a guy who will be in the rotation. Frank Carduff has done some things at tackle, he will be in there. Tim Reed looks good. We are really young; there are a lot of young guys up front. We had a lot of freshmen last year and we have a lot this year."
Intelligence in football: "The day of the truly dumb player is over. If they average fan would do research and see what these guys have to learn as far as offense and defense and schemes and whatever. You have to have some semblance of intelligence. You can't play at this level or the next level (without it). If you watch a game from 30 years ago, Notre Dame or Texas or Oklahoma or whatever, you see one formation and one defense and you don't see a lot of shifting and motion. The game has advanced do much. We will eat, and an hour from now we will watch today's practice in a nice room with light and everything. Before you had to send it out, get the film back, do the 16-mm thing. It was hard when I was a (graduate assistant). Now, our G.A.s have it made."
Defensive lineman Johnny Dingle: "He needs to be an every-down guy for us, not just third down. He can do it. He has the ability."