Practice Permutations

Good weather has been the highlight of West Virginia's first five Gator Bowl practices, and head coach Rich Rodriguez hopes that the pattern holds for the final sessions in Morgantown.

"I can't remember it ever being this nice for bowl practice," Rodriguez said after his team finished drills on Sunday. "We've really caught a break, being able to get outside. The indoor building limits you a little bit because you can't kick and things like that, so if we can be outside the rest of the week we can really get some things done. Even if it's raining, if it's not 20 degrees we can get some work done."

That hasn't been the case this week, as temperatures in the 50s and 60s have made Morgantown seem more like Jacksonville, site of the Gator Bowl. West Virginia has been able to practice outside during all of its sessions to date, and hopes to be able to do so again this week.

WVU has practices scheduled for Monday through Thursday of this week, then will allow players to return home for Christmas. The team will reassemble in Jacksonville on Christmas day, with about one-third of the players flying from Clarksburg. The rest will make their own travel plans direct from their homes to Jacksonville, which will allow them a bit more time at home with their families.

"I think that's an important thing, to let the players have some time at home during Christmas," Rodriguez noted.

After the team reconvenes, there will be five more practices in Jacksonville before the game on New Year's Day. However, by that time, Rodriguez plans to have most of the game plan installed, as practices at the bowl site tend to be shoehorned in with other activities. With pre-planned bowl activities, press conferences and other functions, it can be difficult to get crisp, focused practices away from home, so most of the heavy lifting is to come this week.

"The first few practices [in Morgantow] were a combination of working on Georgia Tech and a spring ball kind of thing," Rodriguez noted. "At the end of this week it will be more on Georgia Tech."

Rodriguez elaborated on the "spring ball" quote, noting that work concentrated on fixing problems and dressing things up a bit.

"The key things are to correct the mistakes you made at the end of the year and emphasize the things you are good at," he said. "You want to have a new wrinkle or two to put out there too."

While 29 days will have elapsed since West Virginia's last football game, the Mountaineers really will not have had a month's worth of preparation time for the Gator Bowl.

"The perception for a bowl game is that you have the whole month to prepare, but the reality is that you don't," Rodriguez said. "Last week we did very little because we were out on the raod recruiting and the players were taking finals, so you basically have about two weeks. It's more like an extended open date."

Rodriguez also noted that there aren't any secrets to preparing for a bowl -- no magic formulas that will guarantee, or at least assist, in winning the game.

"Coaches talk to each other and have tried everything out there," he noted. "The preparations are all pretty much the same.

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  • On the injury front, Patrick White, through a WVU spokesman, said he is about 80%. Rodriguez said he was a little limited.

    "He's doing most of the stuff in practice, but toward the end of practice he gets a little sore so we rest him at the end. He'll be fine by the bowl game."

  • Steve Slaton was proclaimed healthy by Rodriguez.

  • Owen Schmitt is still hampered by the foot injury he suffered in the fourth quarter against Cincinnati, and projections for his return to health are unable to be made. He will still play, but his effectiveness will be in question.

  • Rayshawn Bolden has a wrist problem that kept him out of practice.

  • Jeremy Bruce has a strained hamstring, but Rodriguez believed he will be available for the bowl game as well.

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