Rod Report - Day IX

Practice was crisper, the execution was better and more players returned. In all, as one might say, it was a fairly nice day to be a Mountaineer, wherever you may be.

Quarterback Patrick White returned to drills and, although getting a bit sore at the end, had a solid session. Tailback Steve Slaton also got reps and carries in, albeit in a white jersey that had red numerals instead of the usual blue, though there was no significance.

"It was probably our best practice since camp started," head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "The intensity was better, the execution better on both sides. Even though we did not go live much, it was better. We did a little running at the end anyway because I did not like the way we practiced Saturday. But it was a good practice; we got some things done today. I had not been pleased with the intensity, and we are used to high-intensity practices. If I watch the film and it looks like we ran around like I thought, then I we won't run tomorrow. If there were loafs, we will run."

West Virginia is working on getting its timing down right now, as it has moved into full 11-on-11 sessions. There was a sense of urgency, Rodriguez said, to get some semblance of that this week. The Mountaineers were decent in their first scrimmage, on Saturday, and after a day of rest – there was no practice Sunday – they seemed to execute significantly better. Rodriguez said he did see some things he thought his team could execute during Saturday's scrimmage, which is a step forward from lacking much of anything in that department early. WVU will hold another scrimmage Wednesday and one Saturday.

"That will tell us a lot about who will be in our two-deep," Rodriguez said. "It is too early to tell on the first-year players. I don't know, of them, who will be in the two deep. I will have a better answer Wednesday, and we certainly will know after Saturday."

Greg Isdaner is the lone major player who missed time. He has a sprained knee, and it will be two more days before he returns. The experiment of moving former guard Ryan Stanchek to tackle has worked, and it is expected that the move will be permanent. Stanchek likes that he is in a two-point stance instead of a three-point, and it is believed by the coaching staff that he will be able to handle the transition. John Bradshaw can also play tackle, but is better suited for either the right or left guard slots.

"I'd like to have two centers, three guards and three tackles, total," Rodriguez said before addressing what appears to be sure starters of now. "We are gearing thoughts toward finding who those eight guys are. Stanchek is a proven guy. Jake Figner is a first-year starter at right tackle. We really like our young guys. All of our new offensive linemen, we think, are going to be really good players. I just don't think they are going to be ready this year.

So the lineup looks like Dan Mozes at center, Jermey Sheffey at right guard, Jake Figner at right tackle, Stanchek at left tackle and, in all likelihood, Isdaner at right guard.

"Stanchek's is a critical spot," Rodriguez said. Everyone says it ‘protects the blind spot,' but whether you are right-handed or left-handed, you are going to go both ways. I think his experience out there a little but and the fact that we have more guard-type candidates on our roster than we do tackle is a reason. We addressed that this year and we will address it again. We need offensive tackles, athletic guys out there. That and quarterback are the hardest because of the physical and mental parts."

Rodriguez did say former Seton LaSalle High receiver Carmen Connolly has moved father along than fellow Pittsburgh native Wes Lyons. Lyons has been bothered by a sprained thumb and a sore shoulder, and Rodriguez said he is still adjusting to the tempo of practice and the conditioning needed on the Division I-A level.

"He obviously has some ability, but he has a ways to go," Rodriguez said of Lyons. "Carmen has done some nice things. It's his first fall camp, too, but right now he is closer to helping us than Wes is. But that can all change in a week."

Rodriguez also addressed Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt's claim that the Panthers would built a recruiting wall around western Pennsylvania, not allowing Penn State and West Virginia, among others, to sign any players. The two wideouts, along with Jeremy Bruce, Ed Collington, Bobby Hathaway, Mortty Ivy, Doug Slavonic, Eric Wicks, Adam Serena, Vaughn Rivers, Pat McAfee and Mozes, among others, are all western PA recruits.

"I am sure there is a gate or two in that fence," Rodriguez said. "There is no question western PA is a primary area for us, as well as other schools. For us it is a home area because it is so close. Coach (Tony) Gibson has done a good job up there and we have coach (Rick) Trickett up in Erie, in the northern part. We have always had great success at West Virginia with western PA guys. I see that being a staple of our program."

Rodriguez also complimented nose guard Pat Liebig: "He has been in our program for awhile. He was a greyshirt and he waited his turn. He battled some back problems and, as I have mentioned, at the end of last season was playing as well or better than any defensive lineman we have had. He is a strong guy, a tough guy and probably epitomizes what our program is about: A guy who hangs in there and battles and gets his shot and makes the most of it. He is very, very valuable to us, and in our defense, when we have an outstanding nose guard it makes the whole thing work. We have been fortunate to have them, back to Ben Lynch and Ernest Hunter to Pat Liebig. If he can bring that to us this year, it is going to make the defense very good."

Note: Wicks ran through the first few drills, then was taken off the field for precautionary reasons. The spur/bandit safety was feeling ill and was tired.

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