Rod Report - Day XI

Several key players were back practicing Wednesday, when West Virginia held a solid 'live' session that focused on red zone work and plays from near its own goal line.

"We had a lot of guys in red and green jerseys, which means they were not practicing," head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "But it was good to see some of our skill guys execute a bit."

Among them quarterback Patrick White, tailback Steve Slaton, receiver Brandon Myles and fullback Owen Schmitt. All played in the 85-play scrimmage. Tailback Jet Best remains out in a red jersey due to a shoulder injury and Slaton carried the ball just seven to eight times and was involved in a dozen pass routes and multiple protections for a totally tally of approximately 25 plays.

"There is no question he is more confident in what we are doing offensively," Rodriguez said of Slaton. "He is able to see his blocks better and he understands more what we want out of our offense. He can make a lot of adjustments now. But we still have to be conscious of the fact that he is still just a second-year player and that he will make mistakes. But he is a very conscientious guy and he takes it very seriously. I think he is a better football player now as far as understanding what we do and how teams defend us."

Slaton, Rodriguez said, really started to understand what West Virginia's offense entailed and what coordinator and running backs coach Calvin Magee wanted him to do as far as zone blocking reads, pressing the block to the line for the hole and springing into the open field. The superback is showing better patience this season in knowing where and when to cut and being decisive when finally making that burst through the line.

"Some times you are such a fast guy like Steve that you want to make everybody miss," Rodriguez said. "The best way to do that is just to run north and south and we have preached that. At the end last year he was running north and south. We have to keep reminding him to do that. We don't want them too fast initially. We want them fast after they break through the hole, but sometimes they get a little antsy before the press the block and make the read. Steve has gotten patient with that. Now what we want to do is have Steve continue that burst through the hole."

Pat McAfee is now kicking shorter distance, and by the end of the week should be back in full. WVU used walk-on David Brewer and Scott Kozlowski for the majority of work. Rodriguez joked that if Brewer made the extra point he was happy, since the freshman is primarily a punter and will only be used in placekicking situations in an emergency.

"Pat is the kicker," Rodriguez said. "But I have been proud of David. He has gotten better, coming here as strictly a punter. He can boom then 40 to 45 yards when he nails it. He has a pretty strong leg. I am glad he is with us."

Rodriguez also address other topics, among them…

Long snapper Tim Lindsey: "He is the leader of the specialists. He takes control of them in practice. He is very accurate. We do some different punts where you want to punt it to different spots and he can lead the ball right there now. He has gotten even more accurate than he was last year on his punt snaps. The thing is, we do that roll punt, and it helps to snap the ball to the right side of the punter. Last year we had him snap it back normal. Now, if we are going to roll right, he can get that snap to the right of the punter. That's a bonus, an extra. I (want) the snap about four-feet tall. He has been very consistent. He takes his job very seriously, he studies the film and he has been very good. And Adam Hughes has been very good as the backup. We are getting a lot of confidence in him as well."

The coverage responsibilities of the snapper: "A lot of times they do not cover the snapper. He can just snap it and go down there and, if he is unblocked, to make the tackle in the open field. If he can't make the tackle, at least redirect and make them run sideways instead of down the field. Tim has made some tackles, but he is not going to be the guy that you want in the open field, one-on-one trying to save a touchdown. But he can get in front of them and dive sideways and maybe make the guy trip over him or something. Some don't bock the center. They think the return guy can make him miss. If that is their scheme, you hope the center can make the tackle."

Brandon Myles' play as a kickoff returner: "He has not done a lot of special teams because we have babied his knee a little bit. He had a good day today receiving the ball and I think he can help us back there. But Vaughn (Rivers, a reserve field corner) and Antonio (Lewis, the starting boundary corner) are still our top two guys."

The drop-off from White to reserve quarterbacks Jarrett Brown and Nate Sowers: "You have to remember, Jarrett and Nate are just still just second-year players. They have not played yet. They have athleticism and I like seeing their progress mentally. They are so much more confident now than they were in the spring. It is like night and day. They are still making some mistakes that drive (quarterbacks) coach (Bill) Stewart and I crazy. But you can sense that when they make a mistake they know what they made. When they made a mistake in the spring it was like ‘What did I do wrong?' Now they know what they did wrong and that is the first step."

Note: Travis McClintic is the first-team holder. Freshman receiver Carmen Connolly is the backup, moving ahead of Markell Harrison, who is not among the 105 players in fall camp. The reserve quarterback will return to drills when West Virginia begins classes Aug. 21. Both McClintic and Connolly have been very good, Rodriguez said, and they will be the main holders.

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