Rodriguez often tosses up comment to motivate players, but in this care, it didn't appear that was the lone case. West Virginia seemed a bit lackadaisical, and the possible reasons were myriad. Players were saving themselves for the scrimmage the following day. They had already cashed out mentally, prepping for the beaches or trips home. Or, simply, with nine practices in and five left to go, they hit the mid-spring lull. That hardly matters, however, especially for a program like West Virginia, expected to compete for a national title in 2007.
"In our programs we are supposed to practice hard all the time," Rodriguez said. "We want great effort, intensity and enthusiasm. Maybe somewhere else this would have been an ok practice. But here our standards are a little higher."
The coaching staff did address numerous spring break problems, including ensuring all players would be back in Morgantown by Sunday evening. Rodriguez also went over things such as safe traveling, being cautious wherever they are, and not simply sitting around all week – though that is something he said he was sure he would be the case with some players, meaning Monday's practice will be a tune-up for Wednesday before the April 7 spring game.
"I get more worried about them laying around, or going to those Girls Gone Wild parties," Rodriguez said of the collegiate videos that depict spring break students in typically wayward situations. "I want them to relax and see their families and I'd like for them to get a little running in, but I am sure that won't happen. But maybe a break from football and their studies. I think most will do that. More than anything, what I worry about the most is the travel to and from. There are so many people on the road. A lot of our guys drive a long distance. Every coach and parent worries when your kids are on the road. And it's not just them, it's other folks driving. So that's the biggest thing: Don't be in any hurry to get there or get back. Give yourself time and be a good defensive driver."
Barring an unforeseen circumstances, WVU should return from spring break with its healthiest roster since the start of drills. Several players out earlier have returned, bolstering the competition within the two-deep and allowing practice to be run at a faster pace – if the Mountaineers can show more intensity on Thursday. But some are still out.
"You got two guys in (Greg) Isdaner and (Frank) Carduff and then Jake Miller, so that's three scholarship linemen who are not doing anything this spring," Rodriguez said. "It's not so big with Steve Slaton because we know what he can do. Those guys on the line will need to have great summers."
The emphasis tomorrow will be on special teams. The weather is expected to be clear and 70, the finest day yet during the spring. That will allow WVU to again practice outside within Mountaineer Field, where it can utilize the 100 yards to drill punt, punt return, kickoff, kickoff return and field goals. That's something that has been lacking when West Virginia was forced into its IPF, especially when it hosted the coaches clinic with hundreds of prep coaches ringing the field. Rodriguez said his team will also get more work when it returns from the break.
West Virginia will have several players in class for the Thursday practice. The goals of evaluating who can compete and who is ready to play and bettering the techniques and fundamentals are still in play. Rodriguez said he felt he was beginning to establish a two-deep and that the squad has gotten better fundamentally. That leaves the one glaring aspect that has been the story for much of spring.
"The experiments we have been doing with the schemes, we are way, way behind in that part," Rodriguez said. "We have been very vanilla, especially on offense. We only have three runs in and a couple protections. We don't even have half of our pass packages in. I don't see us even moving forward from there. I am interested in getting fundamentally better right now.
"Guys not knowing what they are doing jumps out a lot. What you want are guys that don't make the same mistake twice. They might keep making mistakes all the time, but if it's not the same mistake, you can work with them. The guy that makes the same mistake, over and over, you wonder if he is ever going to get it. We tell our guys that we are going to keep coaching them, that we won't give up. But at some point when they keep making the same mistake, they have to keep concentrating better."
The coaching staff will have its normal working week. Because WVU's break is later than normal, Rodriguez plans to visit other colleges and see how they practice, perhaps incorporating portions of what they do into the Mountaineers' drills. West Virginia has hosted a plethora of teams during its drills, including Colorado and Pace colleges today.