Spring Football Notes

With spring football over, Mountaineer fans will now enter the dreaded "lull" between the end of drills and the beginning of fall camp. As you enter college sports purgatory, take a few notes from spring ball with you.

One player who did not participate in Saturday's Gold-Blue game was star running back Steve Slaton. The All-American missed a majority of the 15 workouts following January surgery to correct a problem with his right wrist. While he wasn't on the field taking hits, Slaton was participating in spring drills with the ever-popular "mental reps."

"I really haven't gotten to do too much other than watch things," the rising junior said. "It's still pretty helpful.

"I now have a more comprehensive view of the offense. They've been putting in a lot of the basic stuff for the newer guys, so I've been able to look at it like big pieces, and learned more about the whole concept of the offense."

Slaton fully expects to be at 100 percent by the time August two-a-days roll around. And though he'll likely be feeling as good as new before that, he's proceeding with caution until his doctors give him a clean bill of health.

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One player who did make an impact on Saturday was freshman linebacker J.T. Thomas. The Florida native was originally slated for playing time last season as a true freshman, but a variety of injuries kept him from doing so and thus earned him redshirt status. From the first practice of the spring, Thomas has been running with the first team defense at the Sam linebacker spot.

"I learned a lot," he said of his first spring in the program. "Not only did I learn what I was supposed to be doing, but I learned about what the players around me were doing. Now I have a feeling of everything around me, and what my job is and what I need to do to help the defense."

Thomas's impact will be part of what is hopefully a more successful defense in 2007. Throughout the spring, the cerebral frosh has seen improvement in the defense as a whole.

"I just think that more guys are on the same page," he explained. "That's what I believe. We're communicating a lot now. At the beginning of the spring, we were out there trying to get used to each other. (Saturday) we communicated. If you were making a mistake, someone knew where you needed to be and put you in the right position to make something happen."

Of course one thing the Floridian wasn't planning on was snow in April. The white stuff doesn't show up all that often in the Sunshine State, let alone in a month known for clear skies and blooming flowers.

"That was my first time playing in the snow. It was kind of rough," he admitted. "You get a little bit stiff, and edgy."

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Finally, the biggest story on WVU's campus the past two weeks has been the ongoing search for a new President. Outgoing President David C. Hardesty will leave office in the fall. The search is down to a pair of candidates: Kansas State provost Duane Nellis, and Morgantown attorney Mike Garrison. As a University employee, head coach Rich Rodriguez has been keeping up with the search as much as he can.

"If you're an employee of the University, you pay a little bit of attention to it," he said. "I'm not involved in the process of course, because we have the committee that's in charge of that. They'll do a great job. Whoever they choose will represent us well. Our school is in a good place right now. We're probably at an all-time peak, and we should continue to do well and grow.

No matter who the choice is, Rodriguez looks forward to a continued working relationship between his program and the central administration of the state's flagship University.

"The President of our University has always been involved in athletics, and helped our cause," explained the seventh-year head coach and WVU grad. "I'm sure the new President will understand that we're a small part of the University, but at the same time we're a very visible part of the University. Athletics can play a big role in continuing to enhance WVU, and I feel that it will continue to do so."

A third candidate, Portland State President Daniel Bernstine, withdrew his name from consideration last week. The WVU Board of Governor's is expected to vote on the vacancy this coming Friday.

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