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Break concerns Rodriguez

by Greg Talkington

SPORTS WRITER

MORGANTOWN -- With spring break now in the rearview mirror, new West Virginia football coach Rich Rodriguez is anxious to get started with the second half of spring drills.

The Mountaineers will practice three times (Monday, Tuesday

and Friday) this week before concluding the week with a scrimmage on Saturday.

The week off concerns Rodriguez, but believes it won't be a detriment.

"The biggest concern for us was that the kids understand the effort it takes to run our offense," Rodriguez said. "I think they were finally beginning to figure that out.

"A lot of them thought they were going hard every play, but when we showed them the film, they could see that maybe, they weren't quite as ready on third down as they were on first and that they need to be."

Part of the success of Rodriguez' no-huddle, spread offense is the tempo, which eventually wears out opposing defenses. The other part is execution, another concern for Rodriguez.

He's especially worried about the wide receiver position.

"We need eight or nine wide receivers to run this offense, and right now, I'm not sure we've got four," Rodriguez said. "They're not attacking anything like I want them to."

Dropped passes, incomplete routes and poor blocking have plagued the position through the first two weeks of spring.

"We're giving everyone a good, long look," Rodriguez said. "Catching the ball I don't think will be a problem. But running precise routes and blocking on the perimeter is something all of them need to step up and do better.

"This offense can't be successful without good execution and blocking from the wide receivers. Coach (Steve) Bird and myself will really have to coach them these next two weeks. If they don't do it, they won't play."

While the wideouts haven't caught on yet, Rodriguez did have praise for the quarterbacks and top two running backs.

"Avon Cobourne and Cooper Rego have done a good job of adjusting their styles to fit our offense," Rodriguez said. "In the open field, we want them to use their instincts and moves, but we want them to do that running north-south, instead of east-west.

"None of the other backs have caught on to that and we're still looking for the third back."

Senior-to-be quarterback Brad Lewis has done a good job of picking up the offense as have the other three quarterbacks, Scott McBrien, Rasheed Marshall and Derek Jones.

He also praised Lewis for his leadership.

"Brad has stepped it up," Rodriguez said. "(Offensive tackle) Brad Knell and Cobourne have also shown the kind of leadership we're looking for as coaches.

"On defense, Shawn Hackett, Kyle Kayden and David Upchurch have stepped up and led with their effort and intensity."

Spring drills will continue the next two weeks, ending April 14 with the annual Gold-Blue game.

Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at gtalkington@exponent-telegram.com.

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