West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez announced position moves, injuries and updates on the status of several players. Here's a look at that and more in our odds and ends piece from this afternoon's football luncheon.
, as it has done the past several seasons, has slid some players into other slots. It's not always a final switch, and often the player proves a poor fit. But some, like former tight end-turned-offensive tackle Selvish Capers' flop seems to be perfect. Here are a few of the switches:
Greg Davis will be moved from corner, where WVU seemingly had an influx of talent as well as numbers, to safety. There are also several linebackers who could play as defensive ends. That will be one of many experiments in spring practice, which gets the earliest start of the Rodriguez era due to the replacement of the turf at its conclusion. In the last two years, the Mountaineers have signed Boogie Allen, Davis, Guesly Dervil and Ellis Lankster. And Mitchell St. Lot is a walk-on from Glades Central High in Florida who is eligible to practice this spring. That, while graduating few. So the move by Davis appears to be a solid one, as Lankster, Allen and Dervil are expected to compete against Vaughn Rivers, Larry Williams and Antonio Lewis. Kent Richardson will obviously also get a look.
Nate Sowers is currently a starting wideout, having moved into the top four with the depletion of eligibility by Brandon Myles, among others. The other starters are Darius Reynaud, Tito Gonzales and either Dorrell Jollah or Wes Lyons. Sowers, a Martinsburg, W.Va. native, will also take reps at quarterback, although they will come after those of starter Patrick White and backup Jarrett Brown. Rodriguez did not list Sowers as a linebacker, though he did not that "he is too good of an athlete to watch the game. Our defensive coaches would love to have him, but right now he is an offensive player." White and Brown will take reps with the ones this spring, though White is the starter. WVU also inked Andrew Harris, Charles Matthews and Jock Sanders, though none will practice this spring. Sanders seems a perfect fit for the slot and as a kick returner.
White appears to be nearly recovered from an ankle sprain suffered at the end of last season. He will be in a limited contact jersey as will Brown. He will take his normal amount of reps. Tailback Steve Slaton is doing all of the running and most of the lifting as the team winds down its final workouts in preparation for the one-month spring period. The offseason wrist surgery went well, and by May he might be listed as 100 percent. Barring an aggravation or other injury, Slaton is expected to participate fully in all summer conditioning and fall drills.
Fellow running backs Jet Best and Eddie Davis will also try the slot wideout spots. Best's open-field slyness will earn him a major look here. Davis tallied 65 all-purpose yards last year, that coming in one outing. Best, a sophomore, has yet to record a collegiate touch.
In perhaps the most surprising of moves, fullback Owen Schmitt will take reps at tight end as well. That has little to do with the vacation of the spot by Capers and more to do with Schmitt's need to touch the ball 10-12 times peer game. Maxwell Anderson and Sam Morrone will be the backup fullbacks, while new tight ends coach Bill Stewart will look at Mookie Tate and four-game starter Mike Villigrana. Schmitt could also be a devastating blocker out of the TE area. It's also a way to get the sure-handed senior the ball in the open field and at the second level-plus.
Pat McAfee is considered the starting kicker in all phases, including punting. Scott Kozlowski will have every chance to earn his job back; WVU is also searching for walk-on kickers. It currently has: David Brewer, a punter out of Columbus, Ohio; Alex Campbell, a kicker from Riply, W.Va.; Keith Coffindaffer, a kicker from Bridgeport, W.Va.; Chris Glenn, a kicker from Newton, Pa.; and Greg Pugnetti, a kicker from Fairfax, Va., though not from Schmitt's Fairfax High.
The injury front is significant entering spring. Besides Slaton, reserve offensive linemen Frank Carduff (knee surgery) and expected starting right guard Greg Isdaner (shoulder) are out, while right tackle Jake Figner could miss major time with a hernia. Linebacker Marc Magro will miss the entire spring after his knee surgery. Receiver Darren Brownlee could again miss major time after wrist surgery. Quarterback Adam Bednarik is slated to see a doctor on Thursday to determine his status after he had season-ending shoulder surgery last year. He is considered a toss-up for spring, though Rodriguez notes that the coaching staff feels he "is good enough to win with, and it's nice to have three quarterbacks we feel that way about."
The long snapper position, manned well by Tim Lindsey for the last three seasons, will be decided by Braxton County native Zach Flynt (Jr.), sophomore Brad Lohr, and Bobby and Jeremy Kash, brothers from Centeerville, Ohio. Bobby is a sophomore, while Jeremy is a redshirt freshman. None have lettered. The holder is Carmen Connolly.
Mike Dent will have first chance to replace center Dan Mozes, the Rimington Award winner. Walk-on Tim Reed and redshirt freshman Eric Jobe will also take reps there. Jobe will start with the second team.
Tailback Jason Gwaltney is eligible to practice in the spring, but Rodriguez said he "doesn't know how much I am going to let him. I want him to concentrate on academics. He will not be available for interviews. His status is as a walk-on trying to earn a scholarship and his way onto the team."
West Virginia has assigned new assistant coaches Greg Frey and Rod Smith to the Florida recruiting areas. Both came to West Virginia from South Florida. Frey, the offensive line coach, will be based only in the Sunshine State. He had been with the USF program since its inception in 1996. He is a Florida State grad and a Clearwater, Fla. native. Smith, the new quarterbacks coach, will handle other areas as well, like the deep south. That area was heavily recruited by former offensive line and assistant head coach Rick Trickett before he accepted a similar job with Florida State.
Smith, once a graduate assistant for a few weeks under Rodriguez in his first season (2001), was at USF for six years. He was a quarterback for Rodriguez at Glenville State and was named an NAIA All-American in 1996. The other recruiting areas have been shuffled little under new coordinator Tony Gibson. With Smith, Gibson and new wideouts coach Tony Dews, WVU has three former Gas of Rodriguez. From March of 1999 through April of 2002, Dews worked with the offensive line and secondary as a WVU graduate assistant.