"As luck would have it, bad luck, as soon as practice started (there was) lightning," said head coach Rich Rodriguez during his post-practice press conference. "So we went indoors for the first 20 minutes, then went back outside and got a little humidity towards the end. They felt it, I think. It still wasn't really brutal. We'll probably get that tomorrow in full pads."
For the second straight day, West Virginia practiced in "shells" consisting of helmets, shoulder pads, and shorts. With full pads and heavy hitting on deck for tomorrow afternoon's practice, Rodriguez is hoping and expecting an increase in the intensity level compared to what he's seen thus far.
"I would be very disappointed if it doesn't," said the seventh-year head coach. "We haven't gone live yet. When you go full pads and you don't increase intensity, you're likely to get hurt."
In addition to the increased intensity, Coach Rod is also hoping for increased performance and execution from his highly-ranked squad. For the first four days of camp, the Mountaineers have focused heavily on installation in all three facets of the game. Come tomorrow, the installation will temporarily cease and all 105 participants in fall camp will have a chance to make an impression on Rodriguez and the rest of the Mountaineer coaching staff.
"Tomorrow will be a big evaluation day," he said. "We'll do no installation on offense, defense, or special teams. We'll have a lot of competitive situations and we'll see who will be guys that we can count on."
One particular area the head coach will be keeping his eye on is the defensive line. Senior stalwarts such as Keilen Dykes and Johnny Dingle have proven themselves over the past couple of years, but Rodriguez is hoping to develop more depth along West Virginia's three-man front.
"We would like to have six," he said. "With a three-man line, you would like to go at least two deep (at each position). Ideally it would be seven or eight, but we're not there yet. We'll have a chance to get seven or eight. We should have more depth there than we did last year, but again we haven't put the pads on yet."
The Mountaineer mentor is also eager to see what many of the newcomers can do on their first day in full pads. Over the past few days, Rodriguez has expressed optimism that a handful of first-year players may be able to help his team right away. With the pads going on tomorrow, he'll get a better idea of who those players might be.
"I like this freshmen class, this newcomer class," he reiterated. "I'll find out a lot more about them over the next few days.
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Rodriguez noted that "a couple of walk-ons" have left the team. He declined to name who, saying that he didn't want to give them any publicity.
"This is a tough sport for tough people," he said. "The guys who are returning understand that it's a lot of work."
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With Virginia Tech having left the schedule after the 2005 season, and Maryland slated to do the same in 2008 and 2009, Rodriguez was asked if Louisville had ascended to rival status for his Mountaineers.
"To become a rivalry you've got to play someone every year, you've got to be competitive, and there's got to be a lot at stake when you do it," he explained. "That makes it a rivalry game, and Louisville has become a rival as quick as you can."
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On the topic of possible Big 10 expansion, Rodriguez said: "I heard that and thought, ‘Oh man let's not go through this again. Let's get this out of the way as quick as we can.'
"I'm not surprised. I've been saying that for several years; I don't think the Big 10 will stay at eleven. Then again why are you the Big 10 if you've got 11? I'm not a math guy, but ten plus one…I don't know what's going to happen. I bet that they'll look into it seriously over the next couple of years, but I just hope our league will stay intact."
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The practice schedule for the rest of the week includes a pair of two-a-days on Thursday and Saturday, followed by a day for meetings on Sunday. The team will not practice on Sunday afternoon.