Add in the team viewing of WMU's dismantling of ACC foe Virginia on its home field and a 28-20 loss at Florida State, and West Virginia would appear to have anything but a cavalier attitude heading into the season opener Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Mountaineers, ranked No. 6 in the preseason Coaches' Poll, are wary of Western Michigan's ability to throw – WVU allowed 300-plus yards passing in four of its final six games – out of its west coast set and the Broncos' 17 returning starters on a team that went 8-5 and was picked to win the MAC West this season.
"They beat Virginia at Virginia and nearly beat Florida State at Florida State," Rodriguez said. "We know we will have to play well and execute or we will get beat. You can't just mess around, show up and win. … We're doing some different things scheme-wise to help the secondary and the defense has been playing pretty well. I am real excited about the things they have done. I'm anxious to see how they perform in a game."
West Virginia, thinner at linebacker with the suspension of assumed starter J.T. Thomas, could be playing with two banged up ‘backers in the opener. Reed Williams "tweaked" an elbow, Rodriguez said, and will play at less than 100 percent. Reserve Bobby Hathaway broke his hand and has been practicing in a club-like removable cast for more than one week. He will play in the club as well. Other than those two, WVU appears to have recovered well from any injuries sustained during camp and will enter the game very healthy.
Free safety Ryan Mundy has continued to progress, giving the defensive staff added depth and flexibility. The senior transfer from Michigan is expected to see major time at two safety positions against WMU after starting 18 of 35 career games for the Wolverines. He made 86 tackles and intercepted three passes.
"We're pleased so far," Rodriguez said. "We like Ryan Mundy and he has added to the competition in the secondary. He is playing with a chip on his shoulder. He has become more confident and, within the last week or so, really come on in practice. He knows what we are doing and he can provide depth and play quite a bit."
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Jock Sanders and Noel Devine continue to battle for the backup tailback slot behind All-American and Heisman Trophy contender Steve Slaton. Rodriguez admitted that he didn't think his offense was difficult to learn, but that his is a skewed view because he has been involved in the setup for so long. It appears as though Sanders will help immediately at slot receiver, with both players perhaps returning kickoffs and taking backfield snaps.
"Any time a true freshman can work into the two deep they have to learn things pretty quickly," Rodriguez said. "For us, they have to have talent, but also learn quick. Jock Sanders is explosive in the open field, and his quickness stood out when we watched him. He returned punts and kicks and played tailback and receiver (at St. Petersburg Catholic High). We watched him play point guard in basketball as well, and his quickness, you could see it then. He has learned so much that it has been impressive. All the plays are in. It's a matter of retention at this point."
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Long snapper Adam Hughes appears to have added to his accuracy and velocity throughout camp. The junior, a 6-1, 220-pound native of Princeton, W.Va. earned the job after backing up the graduated Tim Lindsey for two seasons.