"For a lot of guys that are trying to crack the two-deep, the couple scrimmages we have are very important for them," Rodriguez said. "That will be more important than the spring game, because in the spring game we are very generic. We're vanilla in what we do. So this scrimmage and the next will be the biggest evaluation tool for the guys. There are a lot of guys that have shown some things, but we have to see it live. Tomorrow is a chance for them to do it. We have done drill work to try and see (the two-deep). But we want to see some of those guys battle for it in a game-like environment. Right now, you have coaches standing behind them and correcting them. In the scrimmage, we don't do that. They are on their own."
West Virginia will also scrimmage next Thursday, one day before it has a final tune-up prior to spring break, and after a set-up practice on Wednesday. After the week off, the team will reconvene for one last week of drills leading up to the annual spring game, held April 7. And the two scrimmages are far different from the ones WVU routinely has in the fall.
"You are not worrying about experimenting with different plays as much and it is also more of an evaluation tool for coaches," Rodriguez said. "There will be plays called or things that we do that will simply be in there to evaluate guys. That's a big, big part of our spring practice. Even the guys that played some for us, we have to make sure they are getting better."
The Mountaineers held a 22-period practice Friday that focused on situational snaps and red zone work in front of hundreds of high school coaches attending WVU's clinic. Weather (snow showers and 30-degree temperatures) drove the team inside, where the coaches added to the already crowded atmosphere. That led to difficult conditions and might have favored into Rodriguez's decision to finish earlier than expected, especially with the team unable to do any more special teams work than basic snaps and holds.
"I think we have gotten better in each practice execution-wise and fundamentally," the seventh-year coach said. "Today was a pretty good practice fundamentally. The scrimmage, its hard to get better fundamentally because all you are doing is playing ball. But the effort has been really good. To be honest, that's expected. They have been here a long time, and if they don't know how to work we have serious problems."
One major question is if West Virginia will have enough healthy wideouts to go eight or nine-deep in the scrimmage. That has been the most beat-up spot on the roster, and because of the spread attack stylings, WVU demands at least eight to nine even to feel comfortable with a two-deep. That has made the first weeks on the job challenging for first-year receivers coach Tony Dews.
"Jeremy Bruce has stayed healthy. Wes Lyons is practicing now. I think we'll have enough," Rodriguez said. "(Dews) was easing into it. It's not that he can't coach the position, but he was not here long enough to learn the system. He was here six years ago, but we have chanced a lot since then. Tony is a fast learner, not just of what we are doing, but of the tempo. We're glad he is here. He's doing a good job."
Notes: Rodriguez said that Adam Bednarik threw the ball well today, making some "big time throws. You can tell his arm strength is coming back. He knows our offense and he has been here."
WVU will work field goals and punt protection, but with the weather projected to be in the 30s with snow, the scrimmage will be held inside, limited any true kickoff and punt drills. Rodriguez wanted to, but said he might have to nix the special teams plans. The Mountaineers especially want to take a look at snapper and holder, where no lettermen return. Adam Hughes and Carmen Connolly are the first-teamers of now, with reserve quarterback Markell Harrison the backup holder. After that, it's a logjam.
"The execution has been pretty good with the first team," Rodriguez said. "The second group is nerve wrecking. I think we can have some competition with some guys we signed. I am anxious to get them in. We need to put them under the gun. (Hughes) has done well, but it hasn't been live."