Changes Forthcoming

West Virginia claims its practices are a constant competition. That approach seemed more prevalent this week, when the Mountaineers made known several position changes for this weekend's home game against Cincinnati.

Among them was a possible switch at punter, where Scott Kozlowski has done a very solid job. The sophomore has averaged 39.5 yards per punt and was above 40 until he badly shanked one at Louisville and had another returned for a score. Place kicker Pat McAfee has punted well in practice and could be utilized in spot duty this weekend. Much of it will depend upon what type of punt No. West Virginia (7-1, 2-1 Big East) uses and where it is on the field. Head coach Rich Rodriguez said the move wasn't what Kozlowski did not do as opposed to what McAfee has done, kicking well in all phases in practice. Rodriguez is not concerned about fatigue to McAfee, who also handles kickoffs, both because it is late in the season and because kickers don't use their legs all that much, according to the sixth-year head coach.

The other move comes at corner. West Virginia will likely shuffle freshmen Boogie Allen and Guesly Dervil into the lineup. Allen will battle Antonio Lewis – who came out of the Louisville game with a bruised shoulder – at the boundary corner spot, which is more of a run support position. Field corner Vaughn Rivers will be challenged by Larry Williams, who often mans the spot anyway. Dervil could be inserted for spot duty.

The move stems from both Lewis' injuries and his play at Louisville, when he allowed a touchdown along the sideline to UL receiver Mario Urrutia without looking back to find the ball, a play Rivers says he has seen Lewis make many times. Though the junior has been solid, that play, and others in the secondary, led to the changes. Allen, at 6-1 and 195 pounds, gives WVU a bigger body than Lewis' 5-10, 185-pound frame. The frosh is physically mature for a first-year player, just turning 20, and runs a 4.5-flat 40, which isn't burning but allows him to stay with wideouts.

Dervil, 6-0, 180 pounds, is a blend of quickness and decent run support play, and the Jacksonville native obviously has more size than the generously-listed 5-9, 170-pound Rivers. He says his best traits are an overall ability to do everything, with few weaknesses in his game. He is not flashy, but that's not what the Mountaineers are searching for against Cincinnati's (5-4, 2-2) physical wideouts.

"We'll see how they progress this week," Rodriguez said. "Defensively we have to play less tentative. We did not play downhill last game. We have to be aggressive. Larry and Vaughn can play both positions, but Boogie a big physical guy that can run well."

Another move that may need to be duplicated again this week is usual-tackle Keilen Dykes' start at nose guard. The junior is a tough, talented player that can man all three spots for the Mountaineers, though he is best used at tackle. That was not an option versus the Cards, as normal nose Pat Liebig and backup Doug Slavonic were both out with injuries. Dykes played the entire game there, and might have to again because of another injury to Liebig, whose ankle improved only to lead into a back injury.

"Our defense relies on a guy that is pretty salty in there, and he is the strongest d-linemen we have," Rodriguez said. "I thought that was a good move."

Slavonic will practice, and his status is a game-time decision. Lineman Warren Young is expected to be fine, but will not practice today, in a full-contact session, because of a concussion. WVU practiced earlier because of there being no classes on Election Day.

Rodriguez also said addressed the many problems West Virginia must correct this weekend against a much-improved Cincinnati team that has limited solid offensive foes like Virginia Tech, Ohio State and Louisville.

"Offensively, we made a few mistakes," Rodriguez said. "Special teams, it's just cleaning up our kickoff return, which has been pretty solid. And in the punt coverage, we have to fix some of our lane problems. Cincinnati is physical. I think everybody who has played them said the game thing. It will be a slobber-knocker. They are active, and they have great speed at corner. They are probably two of the fastest in the league (in Mike Mickens and John Bowie). The linebackers are active and the safety will hit you. They are aggressive. I thought they held their own last year being so young. I think they have taken on (head coach) Mark (Dantonio's) personality. He came over from Ohio State. They have a power-based offense, they try to stop the run on defense and are aggressive and they play solid special teams."

Note: Tailback Steve Slaton's wrist injury at Louisville was determined to be a sprain. His left funny bone was hit in the first half, and the back did not regain feeling until well into the third quarter. It is fine, and Slaton should be 100 percent going into the Cincinnati game. The back, as has been known for months, might have surgery on his right wrist after the season for either basic bone or ligament ailments. He has had that injury all season.


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