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Coach wants more contact, but players say "no mas"

by Chris Errington

SPORTS WRITER

(Wednesday, August 19) MORGANTOWN -- It's funny how differently coaches and players can view the same situations.

Ask any West Virginia University football player and he will tell you fall practices have been demanding both physically and mentally. Ask defensive coordinator Steve Dunlap, and he will say the exact opposite.

"Practices have been too soft, not enough hitting," Dunlap said. "We need to be going all out."

The veteran coach believes the problem lies with the defensive unit's youth.

"We have three situations on the practice field," Dunlap said. "In one we go all out on the lines and you can't hit the backs and in another it's live the entire way through. Our guys can't seem to know which is which. We either go all out or not at all."

The Mountaineers will get another chance to please Dunlap today when they begin their third day of full contact, two-a-day drills. But if the bumps and bruises the players are complaining of are any indication, they may not be overly excited about any extra contact.

"This camp is very physical," defensive tackle Charlton Forbes said. "This is the first camp I've been healthy through and it's fantastic. But it's still very tough."

Defensive tackle Kevin Landolt agreed.

"Even before pads it was tough," Landolt said. "I guess the coaches are just trying to get us to play harder so we'll be used to the teams we have to play later."

Despite disagreeing on the severity of practice, Dunlap and the players do agree on one issue -- the coming together of a starting unit.

"We've got some concerns at some positions, like building depth at defensive line," Dunlap said, "but we only have a few positions where guys are still fighting for starting roles."

Dunlap cited two battles in particular which may not be decided until the final day of practices.

Dunlap said neither Rick Sherrod nor Jerry Porter have assumed the starting free safety role, nor has a decision been made between Chris Edmonds or Damon Cogdell as the starter at outside linebacker.

"We've got two real good battles going on and it may take a while for us to determine a starter," Dunlap said. "But if the guys play well enough, we'll find a position for them to play."

Notes: After tying a WVU record twice by returning separate kickoffs 100 yards for touchdowns last season, Nate Terry said there's no way he will allow freshman speedster Antonio Brown of Miami to take over his kick return duties.

"He's fast and is a very good athlete, but that's my spot," Terry said.

An already thin defensive line was further depleted when freshman Jerome Turner of Lewisburg reportedly pulled a muscle in his back on Monday.

Although Turner did leave the field under his own power, Dunlap said there's no telling how long he will be out.

But Dunlap did say Osa Nosa, a promising freshman from Homestead, Fla., could see some playing time this year.

"He's physically way ahead of the guys we have playing on the line now when they were freshmen," Dunlap said.

"Nosa is the first lineman since coach Nehlen got here that could even be considered to start as a freshman."