West Virginia refrained from going totally live throughout most of practice. The first 10 minutes it did a ‘W' drill that was live, and the last 15 minutes were also at full tilt. It is on just its fifth practice of the fall, however, and where it would have put in 10 with two-a-days in past years, an NCAA rule change allowing just four true two-a-day sessions means that the coaching staff must ease players into the practices.
"There was still some nice hitting," Rodriguez said. "I thought our secondary did some nice tackling, Owen (Schmitt) hit people hard. Ed Collington showed some good things running the football. That was encouraging. We had some good things out of the running backs."
Offensive line coach Rick Trickett's experiment with sliding guard Ryan Stanchek to left tackle in front of Damien Crissey and moving Greg Isdaner into the vacated slot continues. Jake Figner, Rodriguez noted, has been solid at right tackle. The Mountaineers' scheme allows for and easier position change than most other schools because the zone blocking styles are very similar.
"We know Ryan can play guard," Rodriguez said. "The biggest question mark for us is left tackle. If Damien can't do it then either (John) Bradshaw or Stanchek has to. You'd like to be cut-and-dry, but it happens like that. Some guys emerge later. You have to find the pieces to the puzzle up front, and Rick knows that."
Pat White continues to recover from a slight muscle strain. The sophomore was more active today than Tuesday, and his practice reps will be slowly increased as the muscle is repaired.
He didn't do much today," Rodriguez said. "He did a little more than yesterday. He'll probably do a little more tomorrow. It's precautionary. We have the other guys getting reps. The only problem is we have to be careful how many throws they get because they will get sore. If Pat can't throw again tomorrow then we will limit the passing.
"I am really pleased with the way (backup QBs Jarrett Brown and Nate Sowers) are progressing. They have shown some really good things at times, but then they have shown rookie mistakes. Those two are going to be really good players for us sometime in the future, hopefully sooner rather than later. We brought in everybody we thought had a chance to be in the game, and, like I said, you have t have really bad luck to get down to a fourth quarterback. But we were there before, I think, in the first year, so never say never. But once Pat does more, and he will tomorrow, we should be fine."
Rodriguez singled out free safety Quinton Andrews and cornerback Larry Williams as having exceptionally good practices. Collington and Schmitt were also solid, he said, along with slot wideout Jeremy Bruce, who might be having the best camp of all thus far.
"Ham (Jones) is playing pretty well as well," Rodriguez said. "That is going to be a good battle. We hope both guys are ready to win with. If you are good enough, we'll play you. Ham wil be on every special team, as will Quinton. Eric Wicks has become the default leader back there. Jay Henry had a good day. And Marc Magro, he was making, it seemed, all the plays inside because it didn't look like anybody else was getting of the block. Marc, for us, even though Jay may start, he is a starter and we consider him as such.
"I have also been pleased with the way Johnny Holmes is coming along. It was sort of an experiment to put him out there in the spring, but it looks like it is permanent now. He is running around in space pretty well right now."
On the injuries: "(Receiver Dorrell Jollah) will be another four to five days. Mortty (Ivy) is doing a lot. He is about full go, although he is still in a green shirt. But he is doing almost as anybody else. I didn't notice anybody else that was out, no major things. There are some minor things, and I'l know more in the morning."
On frosh wideout Wes Lyons: "He did all right. He didn't get hit much. He made a couple nice catches. I have to watch the film to see how he blocked. But he is competing. It's hard to evaluate the young guys at times because I think they are confused and it slows them down. He has picked it up. I like John Maddux, too, the other freshman wide receiver. We'd like to use them this year, but it is way too early to tell."
On if he worries about Trickett making many position changes to find the correct fit: "Only if I didn't think they knew what they were doing. I think, in a lot of ways, it has helped us. Dan Mozes to center was an easy move for him because he knew our offense. Eventually, you'd like for al of them to know all five positions. Our tackle ought to know what our guard is doing and our guard ought to know what our tackle is doing and the center has to know what everybody's doing. Our guys don't make a lot of mental errors. They are pretty good about that."
On restoring the tight end: "Well, you know, first they have to get open, then they have to catch it. We have a lot of routes for them. We have more in our offense now than we have ever had. The fullbacks back. You know, most of the times Owen Schmitt got the ball last year was as a tailback. But if people want to list him as a fullback for stats for their fantasy football ventures, that's fine. He is an outstanding football player and a great guy to be around. He still, everyday, is trying to prove himself. So are Steve Slaton and Pat White. That's why those guys are so much fun to be around. All our athletes are like that. That's what we want."
On former WVU head coach Don Nehlen's induction this weekend into the College Football Hall of Fame: "It's one of the ultimate individual honors you could have as a coach. He is the all-time winningest coach at WVU and it's a great honor. I am tickled to death for him. He will probably miss a golf outing or two. He'll get that made back up when he comes back. But I am tickled for him and his family. Speaking as a former player, we are all grateful for what coach Nehlen and his entire staff did while we were here."
West Virginia will go through its first true two-a-day practice tomorrow. We'll have complete coverage of both sessions, as the hitting picks up.