Rod Report - Day X

Two steps forward Monday and one step back Tuesday. That's the take thus far on West Virginia's final week of fall camp by head coach Rich Rodriguez.

West Virginia held two practices Tuesday, but ones that were not as good as the single drill session Monday, according to Rodriguez. WVU will practice just once Wednesday, but that will be another scrimmage, the second of the camp and the last one before the full-scale, end-of-camp finale on Saturday. The Mountaineers drill twice on Thursday and once on Friday.

Rodriguez said if he could, he would go twice every day from Wednesday through Saturday. NCAA rules prohibit consecutive days of two-a-day practices. Also, players must have at least three hours of rest between drill sessions in a single day. The weather has ranged from 90-plus degrees with heat indexes of 100-plus last week to the clear, 65-degree morning practice session on Tuesday. The afternoon session was held outdoors in 80-degree temperatures. That's obviously not nearly warm enough for Rodriguez, but it has helped that WVU could remain outdoors for all sessions since Friday.

Linebacker Marc Magro, who was battling for a starting position before being diagnosed with mono, is recovering well. Rodriguez said he should be ready for the first game on Sept. 1 at home against Western Michigan. Magro walked the field for the second consecutive practice today. He is attending all meetings and is listed as day-to-day. Rodriguez did not run down the full injury report, but said that "there are still a bunch of players in red or green, and I am not putting any of those guys in the two-deep right now.

"They gotta practice and start all over," Rodriguez said. "When we go ones and twos, if you are not in white or blue, well, they gotta get in white or blue to be one or two."

West Virginia's offense struggled on Saturday, with the defense making the majority of the plays. The execution was better offensively on Monday and Tuesday, but the defense did not play as well. Rodriguez said "tomorrow it could be special teams. I will not be happy until we play a game and win. What I want them to respond to is keeping their focus on getting better. To that end, they did. The focus was better the last couple days. But it had to be compared to Saturday, particularly offensively and playing smart. We will see if they do it all week."

Rodriguez said the linebackers have been the group that has stood out the most. He mentioned the cornerbacks as having had a good camp, though no players or units have been outstanding. It's likely not a coincidence that those units have several veterans manning key positions and better depth than anywhere else. Corner Larry Williams won player of the day honors for Monday's practice.

Also, Patrick White threw particularly well today. While the quarterbacks overall have not been overly impressive, they understand the system well via their years at West Virginia and probably could make some of the checks at the line, though Rodriguez reserves those duties for himself and assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Calvin Magee, who also coaches running backs. Rodriguez, who noted that the players don't watch near the film that coaches do and thus will never have play calling rights, said White has proven his ability to run and throw. What will make him truly complete as a quarterback is when he makes all the decisions and the throws to receivers that are wide open, not blowing opportunities for scores. Rodriguez said White can improve in that respect.

"We will call the plays, but that being said you have to be intelligent to play quarterback in this system because you have to make a decision on every play," Rodriguez said. "Other quarterbacks hand the ball off in the run game and make decisions in the pass game. In ours (QBs make decisions) in both. I think Pat could make some checks, he has been in the system long enough. Adam Bednarik could make checks on the line. There are times in practice where we will let them do that just to see if they see things like we see it. You know that's when your quarterbacks have arrived: when they anticipate the checks or know what is going to come next.

"We police everything right now. We signal in the checks. But there might be three options on a play as to where to go with the ball. I always tell people our quarterbacks have to be like a point guard in basketball that can shoot the three. They have to be able to distribute, but then also able to take it themselves based on how (defenses) are playing us."

Rodriguez, on the tailback battle behind Steve Slaton: "It's still wide open. Jock Sanders has been pretty good in camp. Noel Devine has shown some good things. Eddie Davis is playing some running back, but he is also at wide receiver. Ed Collington is still in the mix. When we scrimmage on Wednesday, that will help narrow down who our top three or four are there.

"Noel Devine is a tough little competitor. All those freshmen are. They are learning and swimming. All the hype and all that stuff, it doesn't matter when you get here. You got your name in tape across your helmet and you have to start all over again. Once you earn your stripes on Monday you have to do it again on Tuesday. That's for Steve Slaton, Pat White and all of them. They have to prove themselves. But they have a good attitude and they have been fun to coach. They have been soaking everything in and working hard. That's the first part of being coachable."

On Owen Schmitt's throwback style: "Whether you call it old school or not, he understands the physical nature of being a lead blocker, but at the same time has some running back skills. Sometimes he has been the lead blocker, but he has mostly been a bigger tailback when we have had a smaller and bigger tailback. He has that mentality and has got some skills. He can cut and he has soft hands. We are trying to do some things to get him more time and that's part of what using him at tight end will do. Owen has a passion for the game, and I had to remind the entire team of that. You have to have a passion to play at the highest level."

On players who love football: "You look at guys like Magro, Keilen Dykes, Pat, Owen. Those guys are gym rats. They like all the stuff that goes into the game. Vaughn Rivers is a guy that loves football, is into it. Ryan Stanchek is like that. Usually your better players are passionate about playing. I tell the coaching staff to look for that in recruiting. You gotta have academic ability, you gotta have the athletic ability and you gotta love the game."


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