MORGANTOWN -- West Virginia football fans thinking the team's quarterback derby is a two-man race between Brad Lewis and Rasheed Marshall can think again.
First-year head coach Rich Rodriguez officially made it a three-man race Thursday afternoon, saying 2000 back-up signal caller Scott McBrien came back to fall the most improved of all the quarterbacks.
"Scotty struggled in the spring a little," Rodriguez said. "His problem was mental.
"He never quite grasped the offense as well as the others."
Apparently, McBrien did a great deal of studying over the summer and came back ready to make a bid for the job.
"He's got the quickest release of all our quarterbacks," Rodriguez said. "He's a pretty accurate thrower and he's working to become more accurate.
"He's earned the right to be in the mix and he'll be working some with the first-team offense."
McBrien started one game last season and played in 10 for the oft-injured Brad Lewis. McBrien completed 42 of 99 throws for 755 yards and three touchdowns.
As far as the remainder of the team, Rodriguez was generally pleased with the shape his team appeared in, both physically and mentally.
"The difference between our first practice of the spring and this one was amazing," he said. "Now if we can have this same intensity after four or five practices, that would be great."
Rodriguez was especially pleased with the defense.
"There's a bunch of guys over there who could garner some postseason honors," Rodriguez said. "They've taken to and understand our aggressive approach very well.
"We want them to make big plays and force turnovers and I think they're capable of doing it. I feel we have good coaches and a good scheme and I really like our first unit."
Offensively, there's still much to do.
"The timing is better, but we still need work there," he said. "Some of our throws weren't as crisp as I want to see.
"I think the biggest thing we need to improve on is not turning the ball over. We're not going to put up with that as a coaching staff."
CAMP NOTES: Defensive back Arthur Harrison missed the first practice session due to strep throat... With Tim Frost moved to right tackle, Tory Johnson, Darnell Glover and Ryan Thomas will now battle for the tight end slot. Johnson is also considered the team's top fullback...Morgantown High walk-on tackle Aaron Howell injured a knee and has been walking on crutches...reserve offensive tackle Greg Mittleider did not practice. He reportedly has a leg problem...freshman wide receiver Keith Mills watched practice in street clothes again. He's still waiting word on his eligibility from the infamous NCAA Clearinghouse.
Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org