Team Focus

When Jock Sanders and fellow Florida native Noel Devine decided to come back for their senior seasons at WVU, they both said they had lofty team goals they wanted to accomplish. To see those through, Sanders said the summer workout period is of pivotal importance.

The senior-to-be has made no secret that he harbors dreams of playing professional football once he leaves West Virginia after this season.

Some players might be inclined to feel the pressure to perform in their last go-around as they hope to impress NFL scouts. But Sanders went as far as to say he "really (doesn't) have any personal goals" for this summer.

Instead, it's all about his team.

"I'm going to try to get this team together and get us to bond like our '07 team that went to the Fiesta Bowl," said Sanders. "I'm just having fun, trying to bond us together, us guys. That's one of my major goals, trying to get the team together."

While players at positions like Sanders' slot receiver spot can work on building rapport with their quarterbacks and other skill position players in 7-on-7 drills over the summer, the bonding process he hopes to foster goes far beyond the Xs and Os.

"It's chemistry and all that," he said. "It's just hanging around each other all the time, doing things outside the locker room, just little things to make that bond stronger."

Much of that chemistry for a receiver comes in building a solid relationship with the person who will be tossing the football in his direction when the season starts in August. But for the first time since 2005, West Virginia will enter fall camp without a clear-cut starter at that position.

While rising sophomore Geno Smith will be the favorite to win the job after showing his skills while backing up Jarrett Brown last year, he is widely expected to face stiff competition from true freshmen Barry Brunetti and Jeremy Johnson.

Thus far, Sanders said the uncertainty hasn't translated into 7-on-7s, which are organized and conducted entirely by the players in accordance with NCAA rules.

"On the offensive side, we're coming along good," said the St. Petersburg, Fla., native. "Geno is coming along and everybody is starting to feel each other out. It's like when (former quarterback) Pat (White) and Jarrett was here, and we knew we had a quarterback for sure. It's the same with Geno too. We're getting the rhythm and everybody is starting to go with that flow."

But Sanders was quick to point out that Brunetti, Johnson and the rest of the newcomers who have reported to campus and begun working out with the team weren't far off that flow themselves.

"Most of them coming in have been working hard," Sanders said. "They see the older guys. They're on a roll. You wouldn't even think they were freshmen. You would think they were a year or two (older). They're like vets. They're coming along, working real hard each and every day. So we can't complain about that."

Upperclassmen leaders like Sanders and Devine have a responsibility to ensure the new players get off to a good start before coaches can begin working with them when fall camp rolls around in the coming weeks.

It's a duty the 5-foot-7, 179-pound receiver says he has taken seriously.

"The coaches aren't around, so you try to be more vocal and everything like that," said Sanders.

"We'll be out there and we'll tell them (when players are slacking). When it's the defense, we can go talk to (linebacker) J.T. (Thomas). We can't go talk to (defensive lineman Chris) Neild because it's 7-on-7s. But they get the secondary right and everything."

While Sanders and the offense forge a strong bond with their counterparts on the other side of the ball, he said it is important that they treat 7-on-7s like any other practice where coaches would be around to critique their work. He offered a bit of insight into that process and how this offseason might be a bit different from those of recent vintage.

"We just play against each other real hard," Sanders said. "Instead of messing around out there, we've got to go out there and play."

"That was one of our weaknesses last year. We went out there and kind of played around. We didn't go out there and have the mindset like we're trying to get better each and every day. That's how we're attacking it this summer. Everybody is on the same page. So when we go out there, it's full go, attack mode."

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