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WVU looks good on paper

how about on the field

August 19, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - On paper, West Virginia University is supposed to have one of the best football teams in the nation.

According to USA Today, a paper, on paper the Mountaineers have the sixth-best team, and the talent to challenge for the national title. On Saturday, The Associated Press - a newspaper organization - had West Virginia third in its preseason poll.

On paper, WVU has a successful history and two of the country's most dynamic offensive threats in quarterback Pat White and tailback Steve Slaton.

About this time last week, WVU coach Rich Rodriguez was saving all that paper for his dog.

The papers can say all they want. Rodriguez isn't sure of the state of the Mountaineers until this week and will probably hold all judgments until September.


"College is the only setup in football where you don't know how things will be until you play the first game," Rodriguez said. "On other levels, like high school and the NFL, they have scrimmages to see where you stand."

The Mountaineers have been doing everything they can to shake things up in practice. They alternated two-a-day and one-a-day practices to keep players fresh. They have been running situational drills. They have worked out in all kinds of heat and weather conditions.

It didn't matter. The curtain is still drawn before the main show begins.

"In practices, we look fast," Rodriguez said. "We won't know how fast we are until we play someone else."

Last week, the Mountaineers navigated practices around summer-session finals. This week, it's all football and getting ready to play.

Once it gets serious, the Mountaineers will become more readable to Rodriguez.

"We are a long way from being ready," he said. "They are in shape, but we are not close to West Virginia University football shape. Right now, there is a lot of running and there is hitting, but there aren't any assignments. When you have to think run and hit, those are two different dynamics that are not there during the summer while you are out there running in July.

"(This week) is all football. You can't get in shape in a week, but it's easier to get a little better than not at all."

It might sound like Rodriguez is suffering a case of "coach's poor mouth," but WVU does have some issues to settle before it opens the season.

The Mountaineers are patching holes in the offensive line around three returning starters. They need to shake out which receivers they will use - Martinsburg's Nate Sowers is considered a strong candidate for a job. And they need to straighten the kicking game.

"Our depth looks OK," Rodriguez said. "We are trying to find two guys at every position that we feel comfortable with."

WVU is still looking for a backup to Slaton in the backfield, while Owen Schmitt is splitting time between fullback and tight end with aspirations of playing both during games. Eric Jobe was moved from offensive line to nose tackle for an audition.

It's all part of getting ready to make another run at a national championship at WVU. But the main problem remains.

"We won't know where we stand until we open up," Rodriguez said.

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