Fall Camp Begins

What started out as a party quickly turned into work on Saturday at Mountaineer field.

At first glance, it was a party-like atmosphere at Mountaineer Field on Saturday. There were high-fives and laughs all-around. The smooth sounds of Marvin Gaye, The Gap Band, The Jackson Five, Chuck Berry, and Waylon Jennings were blaring from the speakers in the South end zone. One had to wonder just what was going on in Camp Rodriguez.

And then, in a split second, everything snapped back to reality. Head coach Rich Rodriguez pursed his lips around the whistle, and with one firm tweet the party was over. Camp was officially underway.

The Mountaineers enter 2007 with high hopes, looking to regain the Big East title that eluded them last season while also eyeing college football's ultimate prize, Before any of that, though, they must get back to the basics here in fall camp. Over the next several days and weeks, Rodriguez's troops will refine their fundamentals while trying to integrate youngsters and newcomers into the Mountaineer way.

Rodriguez huddled his troops at midfield for some last minute instructions before in-depth drills and coaching got underway.

"We've got to be a better football team in two hours than we are right now," he said.

For a team that has posted a 22-3 combined record over the past two years, improvement will be hard to come by. That's not to say that there certainly isn't room for improvement. For starters, West Virginia must improve on a defense that ranked near the bottom of the nation in defending the pass. And of course, there's the mountain-sized target on the blue and gold clad backs of the Mountaineers as they continue to ascend to the most rarified air in college football.

On one end of the field, Pat White and Steve Slaton direct the Mountaineer offense as they walk through basic sets and plays. On the other end, Jeff Casteel's defense is doing the same. It may not look like much right now, but it is in these early days of August that champions are born and bred.

The players are still high-fiving each other and passing out chest bumps like they're going out of style. Underscoring all of this is a business-like approach to the 2007 season. Even in August, they have their eyes on the prize.

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