Rod Report - Day VI

West Virginia completed practice number six of spring drills on Wednesday under sunny skies and temperatures approaching 65 degrees. Afterwards, head coach Rich Rodriguez had his daily gathering with the media.

"We still have a long ways to go," said the seventh-year head coach. "I wasn't as pleased with today's practice as I was on Monday. I thought Monday was a great practice, but I thought today was average. We've got to get better this weekend."

Following the roughly two-hour workout, the team met at midfield for their normal post-practice circle with the head coach. After meeting with the entire team, Rodriguez had a separate meeting with his offensive personnel. Though he remained calm and composed during his heart-to-heart with the offense, Rodriguez's message came across as clear as the blue skies above Milan Puskar Stadium.

"I wanted to remind them that offensively, sometimes, there's a perception that you don't have to be as emotional or as physical. Our offense takes great pride in being physical, and I didn't think our offense played very physically today."

Really, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the offense had a little bit of trouble on Wednesday. The Mountaineers are sans the services of All-America tailback Steve Slaton for much of the spring as he recovers from off-season wrist surgery. Injuries have further dented the offensive depth chart as wide receiver John Maddox was in red on Wednesday. Junior receiver Dorrell Jalloh was in a green, limited contact jersey for Wednesday's practice, and starting offensive guard Greg Isdaner has missed all of spring thus far and will miss the remaining nine workouts as well following surgery on his shoulder.

That being said, several players have caught the eye of their head coach, particularly on the offensive line. Redshirt freshman Eric Rodemoyer is competing for the starting right guard spot vacated by the graduation of All-Big East selection Jeremy Sheffey. The Hermitage, Pa. native has been impressive thus far working with the first string offensive line.

"Eric is a guy that's going to have an opportunity to get a starting position," Rodriguez said. "He's still got a little ways to learn, but he's a tough guy, a smart guy. He's everything we thought he'd be when we recruited him, and he's got a tremendous opportunity to help us up front."

Rodriguez also praised the play of junior center Mike Dent, who will likely start in the spot left open by the graduation of consensus All-America selection Dan Mozes. Incidentally, Mozes and former linebacker Jay Henry watched Wednesday's practice from the balcony outside the Puskar Center.

At receiver, Rodriguez continues to laud the efforts of junior Tito Gonzales. When asked in the differences he sees in Gonzales from this time last year, the head coach raved about the efforts of the Tampa, Fla. native.

"I think he's a lot more confident. There's no question about that," Rodriguez noted. "A year ago, he was coming along and proving himself. He's still doing that, but he's certainly a lot more confident in what we're doing. He's made some plays for us, but I think his best football is still in front of him.

"We told him we weren't sure he could play here after his first year. He had a long way to go. He took it to heart, and has a tremendous attitude. I think that he's proving it to the young guys, a lot of whom may even have more ability than him, that a lot of what you have inside of you mentally and with your heart can continue your playing time."

Overall, the Grant Town native is pretty pleased with the way things have gone through the first six practices of spring drills.

"I think we're seeing our guys obviously understanding what we're doing scheme-wise," he said. "I think our defense has settled in to some of the things we're doing. We're starting to find the guys that we think can help us on the two-deep."

NOTE: Coaches from Slippery Rock attended and observed Wednesday's practice. Among those on the staff at The Rock are a pair of former Mountaineers: special teams ace Rob Keys, and tight end Shawn Lutz.

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