The entire emphasis, Rodriguez said, was geared to preparation for Western Michigan in the coaches' meetings. West Virginia will have a full scouting report ready on the Broncos before Saturday. He does not anticipate having to infuse any enthusiasm in his team prior to the opener.
"I don't think you worry about the first one much because I think every college player would tell you they are excited for the first game," Rodriguez said. "It is the first time you play against somebody other than your teammates. The thing I will have to hammer through them is that Western Michigan is a team predicted to win the MAC. They beat Virginia (last season), and this is not just some team where you can just show up, screw around and win. When they see them and read about them, and we will get more into that this week with their program and who they have back and who they beat, it will get our guys' attention."
Rodriguez said the staff is closer to having a full two-deep depth chart. It wanted to at least pencil one in by the end of this week. It will continue to fluctuate up until game day, especially considering West Virginia is absent some players because of injury. Cornerback Antonio Lewis (sprained shoulder) is expected back by early next week. It was originally thought that he would not return until the Thursday or Friday before the opener versus Western Michigan. That is especially important considering corner Ellis Lankster's indefinite suspension.
At linebacker, where WVU lost probable starter J.T. Thomas to a suspension, Marc Magro has returned from a bout with mono and is fully practicing as a starter. Reed Williams and John Holmes are the likely starters as well, though that could change. Williams and Magro are the keys, Rodriguez said, because they can play multiple positions. Mortty Ivy, who has recovered mentally from his knee injury last season, and Zac Cooper are also working in. Ivy never had full confidence in the knee, even at the end of last season and through spring, Rodriguez said, but appears to be flying around well now.
Offensive lineman Eric Rodemoyer has been hobbled with an ankle injury. He is expected to compete for a backup guard slot. Eric Jobe, moved to defense early in fall camp, is now back on offense and is battling Gino Gradkowski for the reserve center position behind Mike Dent. The coaching staff did not think Jobe would play as much as they would have liked on defense, so the move seemed a natural despite defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich saying he liked the freshman along his front three in the odd stack. Receiver Alric Arnett practiced during the early portions of this week, but linebacker Ovid Goulbourne did not, a concern because he has missed significant time. Wideout Wes Lyons is still in a limited-contact jersey because of his hamstring injury. It is just soreness, Rodriguez said, as an MRI revealed nothing was torn. Receiver Nate Sowers did not practice with a hand injury, though x-rays revealed the hand was not broken. He is expected to return soon. Linebacker Bobby Hathaway has also missed time with a broken hand. He will wear a removable, washable club during games. Also, former tailback Eddie Davis has been permanently moved to outside receiver. That leaves Noel Devine, Jock Sanders and Ed Collington as the running backs behind Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt.
The Mountaineers are finished scrimmaging, but will have several first team vs. first team full contact sessions. They will hit Thursday, then hold the annual Beanie Bowl, a sort of glorified walk-through where the team practices its entrance and goes through the motions of pregame. It gives the band a chance to drill for the team entrance as well. WVU will wear all their pads and run through substitutions that Friday. A light Saturday practice will be held prior to Sunday's off day. Monday begins game week.
The coaching staff will call back five to six players from its student body tryouts, held Wednesday morning at 6 a.m. A sign on the Puskar Center door asked Jim Lewis, Khalil Canteh, Art Beck, Trevor Matthews and one other unidentifiable player – "Rein – 76 Blue" – to report to administrative assistant and former coach Donnie Young for a thorough background check.
"We will have them out for a week (of practice) after we check everything like grades," Rodriguez said. "It was pretty good. We usually like to see more linemen, but we only had five to six linemen show up. We usually have more than that. They were ready to go. They were waiting on us at 6 a.m. There was a punter (Matthews, a 6-3, 220-pound junior that was on the roster last season), we will have him tryout. There was a linebacker or two, a defensive back. I am just getting to know them. They have only been with us for about 40 minutes (as of 6 p.m. Wed.) and they might not even know it yet, but they are coming back."
The most wide-open position battles, according to Rodriguez, are at cornerback, wide receiver and linebacker. That has been the same since the beginning of camp with the exception of running back, where Devine and Sanders were named the backups.
"It's not clearly defined at several positions," Rodriguez said. "Wide receiver is the most open on the team. I am not just saying that, or trying to motive our players. And it's not that we don't have guys that can do it. But to tell you who are our five or six wideouts that are going to play most of the time may go down to next Thursday."
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Defensive back Greg Davis missed practice the last two days to attend a family funeral. He is expected to return by Friday.
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Cornerback Vaughn Rivers welcomed a new addition to the Puskar Center. His first child, Chris, accompanied the senior during his interview session. Corner Larry Williams and other players in the secondary also have children. Rivers said he was excited to be a father, but that it was a lot of responsibility – and that it is a house divided. Rivers' girlfriend and Chris' mother is a Pitt graduate.
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Chuck Pugh has returned to practice after making Rodriguez "mad" last week. Also, Ryan Mundy has looked "very good" the last three sessions, according to Rodriguez. "He is really learning very quickly and we are getting a lot of confidence in Ryan. He is playing both the bandit and the free, as is (Eric) Wicks and as is Boogie Allen."
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Rodriguez was also asked about the recent team distractions with the suspensions of Thomas and Lankster.
"It's that old Lion King approach," Rodriguez said. "When the monkey hits the lion over the head and he asks ‘What did you do that for?' the monkey says ‘It doesn't matter. It is in the past.' You know about it and you deal with it, but we have had distractions before. Our kids are focused on what they are doing and focusing on what we have to do. That is not an issue."
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The coach also addressed what team fans that do not have game tickets could do to support Mountaineer football.
"Our fans have been great the last couple years buying all the tickets," Rodriguez said. "I think a lot of the games are on TV, but I have been to places where they were sold out and there would still be 5-6,000 people waiting outside trying to get them. Maybe they will come and enjoy the festivities around the stadium. I would like to see that happen.
"Our fans are great. We sold out our stadium and helped sellout another stadium (Marshall's Joan C. Edwards, which is expected to be as full of Mountaineer fans as it is those of the home standing Herd). Our people are excited about college football and it is our job to deliver a product that they like to watch and see. I hope they enjoy watching these guys play."