Football Squad Primed For Opener

West Virginia's is a relaxed and ready football team entering Saturday's home opener with Tennessee-Chattanooga.

The Mountaineers, heavy favorites, seem confident, cool and ready to compete.

"We better be ready," offensive lineman Lance Nimmo said. "We have seen nothing but Blue and Gold. If we are not ready for another color jersey now we are never going to be. I am looking forward to hitting somebody else, doing things to them I can't do to my own team, so to speak. And the crowd. That's what Division I-A football is all about, 60,000 people getting fired up to watch us play.

"I am excited for the night game, too. The nostalgia of high school football. All the fans love it. That helps us, too."

The talk is of not overlooking the I-AA Mocs, and performing on the field.

"I would be upset if we looked ahead," receiver A.J. Nastasi said. "We were 3-8. We have everything to prove."

Players also readily agreed that it is better not to open with a league game.

"You hate to say lesser opponent," said Nimmo, "but it's great. It's 50-50 against a Big East foe. You lose you are down and people ask questions. You win and it's all up. But this game, as far as bowls go, is not a consideration for winning the league. I am all for this. This is a good decision, get all the non-conference games out of the way."

The worries are containing UTC's quarterback, Ryan McCann, a UCLA transfer. That may come easier, head coach Rich Rodriguez said, because the Mocs will run a one-back shotgun attack.

"Our defense has seen that," he said. "Their offense is similar to ours. They use a one-back shotgun set. They like quick passing, some screens. We are more diverse in how we run the ball, and that should help us because our defense has seen that.

"We have to be ready for trick plays; throwbacks, halfback passes, things like that that come from teams trying to win a first game like this."

WVU is at almost full strength for the game, a change from last year when it had major portions of its defense missing.

Said Lance Frazier: "I think we have to show we are solid, be disciplined and fundamentally sound, especially against the run. I would think teams will run until we show we cans top them. If we do that it will give is a boost of confidence for Wisconsin."

"They have a good secondary, some athletic guys," quarterback Rasheed Marshall said. "They are fast overall, good linebackers. They will be ready. I think guys have come together, and the passing game should be better.

I am not nervous now, but I might be just before game time."

With all the new faces seeing major time, that's a concern for the coaching staff.

"I want to see how we handle playing under the lights, will they get anxious in a real game, etc.," Rodriguez said. "I hope the veterans will help minimize the penalties, like illegal procedure, personal fouls and the like. We don't want to get caught up in emotion. We want them enthusiastic, but not overboard."

Musket blasts

*Rodriguez announced that wideout Mike Page, who has run with the first, second and third teams in two-a-days, will start. He joins Miquelle Henderson, Dee Alston and Nastasi in the first group of receivers.

Travis Garvin and Aaron Neal will pick up the slack for Phil Braxton, who is doubtful with a groin injury. After his stellar performance in the fall, that's a disappointment.

Jahmile Addae's status will be confirmed today after a meeting with team doctors. He suffered a concussion awhile ago and is questionable. Anthony Mims is out because of a pulled hamstring.

*The tight end rotation is Ryan Thomas and Josh Bailey as co-starters with Tory Johnson a second-teamer who will see time.

*Coaches in the booth will remain the same. On offense, Calvin Magee and Herb Hand will be upstairs. On defense, co-coordinator Jeff Casteel will join Paul Randolph. Steve Bird will still signal in plays, and co-defensive coordinator Todd Graham will handle personnel.

*Lew Daniels and Lance Frazier are the starting corners. Brian King will see equal time, but because he has missed time Daniels has won the starting job.

*Backup quarterback Danny Embick will see time if WVU can get a sizable lead.


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