"We are still a little banged up there," Rodriguez said. "It had to get better. It was awful. We are still banged up. Lyons and Jello didn't do anything, and it is stunting their progress. But it gives guys like Nate Sowers and Jeremy Bruce more reps. And we are moving Darius Reynaud, because we think he is a guy we can count on. Everybody is taking reps. We have 100-some guys in uniform, and they are all getting a chance to prove themselves. It's a cleansing period, for lack of a better word, because it separates the contenders from the pretenders."
Among those emerging are tailbacks Ed Collington and Eddie Davis. Both have taken advantage of the offseason wrist surgery of Steve Slaton to gain more snaps. Collington has ran strongly with the ones, and Davis made a jaw-dropping hit Monday that leveled a defender and cleared the way for a gain more three more yards. Behind fullback Owen Schmitt, Collington has been able to hit gaps effectively, but at times runs a bit square, exposing himself to bigger hits. He can get to the corner, as well, and his size is deceptive. The two skill slots are among the most hotly contested this spring, and the competition seems to have elevated the play of everyone able to be on the field.
"We don't want guys who like football, we want guys who love football, and the way they work, they better like it," Rodriguez said. "We are almost making every receiver learn every receiver position. There are four different ones. Guys like Darius knew most of them anyway. Note and Tito and Jello, they will learn multiple positions. It's not so difficult that they can't handle it."
The slots, the X, H, Y and Z all call for different patterns. Of now, Lyons is the X, Sowers the H, Reynaud the Y and Gonzales the Z. The X and Z are more vertical threats, though Rodriguez acknowledged that Reynaud can "run by some people." Jollah also plays the X as a reserve, abd Connolly can fit in at any of the positions. Brownlee is a third-teamer because he has yet to be healthy enough for any time to showcase his skills.
"I'd like to see him out there, but he still has that wrist," Rodriguez said. "The jury remains out on him. John Maddux is banged up as well, and is not coming out."
Rodriguez, on Schmitt getting time at tight end: "It is going well. I think he is getting more comfortable there. I think it will be an opportunity for him to be on the field even more. He is a really good football player, so that will be good."
On the WVU quarterbacks and their technique: "I think there is a misconception that all our quarterbacks do is run left or run right or run up the middle. There is a lot of technique involved in our passing game, the timing, the reading of defenses. Pat (White), Jarrett (Brown) and Adam (Bednarik), the progress has been pretty good this spring. Coach (Rod) Smith has been working the fundamentals."
On the defense: "We have a lot of guys left, so I think we are going to be fairly athletic. We are not going to be a big team, so we have to get a lot of speed out there, and they have to be great tacklers in the open field. You don't do that much live in spring, but it looks like we have tackled pretty well."