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April 14, 2006

A FAN'S GUIDE to the spring game

In the Gold and Blue Game, scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium, there is "an I in team."

For the only time all season, West Virginia football coaches will be looking at individuals, not teams. So should you. About a dozen players on both sides of the ball will be making cameos, so the approximately 100-play rite of spring is all about the new guys.

TO START OFF

Get to Morgantown early. The WVU baseball team concludes a Big East series with Connecticut. The first pitch is at noon at Hawley Field, but perhaps you could take in some BP.

Barring hardball, get to the WVSports.com Tailgate, hosted by publisher Vernon Bailey and Mr. and Mrs. Eersfan, along with several other prominent members of the Blue Lot. A donation of $5 is requested to the site off Don Nehlen Blvd., near Ruby Hospital. Come on you old grads, join with us young lads. Directions can be found at: http://eersfan.com/directions.html

Get to the stadium early. Often the pre-scrimmage drills hosted by the various coaches are the most instructive and entertaining parts of the afternoon. Defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich and offensive colleague Rick Trickett play to the crowd. Not that they mean too, but their voices carry well. It's not about reveling in the misery of the Nos. 50 through 90. It's about who's getting the best of the reps. Kirlav will have his troops in the Ruby end zone; Trick's guys camp out in the opposite end zone.

Sit close to Mountaineer Field. Your chances of calling a play or two in the first half with head coach Rich Rodriguez are enhanced. The coaches' wives may be sitting on the home stands above the 25-year-line on the Puskar Center side of the field. Rod will likely go to First Lady Rita Rodriguez for the first call. You may be next to call the triple reverse or tight end bomb.

The drills may be followed by Mike Barwis Act I, where he puts the players through various stretching exercises. Like Kirlav and Trick, the strength and conditioning coach is animated.

About this time, start breathing in the air of the stadium. Face it, you would rather be no place else, even if it's not fall and the Pride will be sitting this one out.

NEXT

As anyone who has ever been to a spring or fall practice knows, Rod's run by like sand through an hourglass. There is a reason his are considered the quickest workouts in the land. It has nothing to do with their regulation time. It concerns how fast they go.

For a most productive afternoon, make sure you get a program as you enter the stadium and deposit $5 into the WVU Children's Hospital coffers. Circle numbers of players about whom you have heard this spring. Keep an eye on them during drills. Then circle numbers of Pat White, Jarrett Brown and Nate Sowers, who will lead the first three offenses. This will give you a heads up as to which teams, offense and defense, are on the field.

It's a 1s against 1s situation, and so forth. There is a semblance of points. The offense earns digits the provincial way. The defense is awarded 3 points for a turnover, a 3-and-out and 2 for a stop. But who's keeping score. Remember a lot of these young guys are playing for their lives.

THAT SAID

Here's an abbreviated, updated 2-deep sketch after 14 workouts, and a word or two about a younger player at each spot:

OFFENSE

+WR-Brandon Myles and Dorrell Jalloh. Tito Gonzales has had a good spring, while several of his teammates have fallen to the injury bug.

+SR-Darius Reynaud has the speed. Eastern Panhandlers will be amazed at the thickness and power of Brandon Barrett.

+LT-Damien Crissey is the man. Helmets off to a feel good story, a walk-on senior who hung on while others left.

+RT--Likewise Jake Figner, a scholarship player who is getting his chance. The swing tackle behind these two will be John Bradshaw. The big guy in the blue warm-ups observing their drills is Selvish Capers. You will hear from him about October.

+LG-Ryan Stanchek. A player to behold is backup Greg Isdaner. A big red head with a beard to match. He is a load and likely the swing guard.

+C-Dan Mozes. Mike Dent will run with the 2s here. In the fall, Sheffey could slide in if Mozes gets nicked, which could make Bradshaw the swing guard in a pinch.

+RG-Jeremy Sheffey has been slowed by illness. His reps will be limited. You may see Bradshaw, Dent or walk-on Tim Reed here.

+QB--Pat White will be dressed completely in gold with the No. 5 inside his Super Man seal. He will be the only player on the field who will not be hit, or else. If it happens, it will be easy to find the perpetrator. Rod will be standing up to him like Earl Weaver staring down an ump. Jarrett Brown throws the prettiest deep ball in some years. It is inspiring how he lofts the ball out of a defender's clutch and into a receiver's hands on the run.

+RB--Stevie Wonder of course. See if Pernell Williams bowls over people in the back seven. Tyler Benoit has 10.55 speed in the 100m (a step slower than Slaton). The jury is out. You be the judge.

+FB-Owen Schmitt has been hobbled. Sam Morrone will see time here.

+K-Pat McAfee (see earlier instructions about previewing the scrimmage).

+P-Scott Kozlowski (ditto). Both will boot in individual drills. There may be a hint of more back-ups coming in during the fall. Both Mac and Koz will share placekicking duties Saturday.

DEFENSE:

+E-Johnny Dingle is noticeably thicker. He looks more like a down lineman than a stork-like outside linebacker. Veteran Warren Young will run with the 2s

+NT--Veterans Craig Wilson and Pat Liebig will likely share the job in the fall.

+T-Keilen Dykes is questionable with a bad foot. Mammoth Doug Slavonic is coming on and redshirt James Ingram has a motor. Ditto for Scooter Berry behind Dingle and Young.

+MLB-Playboy All-American Jay Henry will make a cameo. Marc Magro keeps getting better.

+SLB--It's Jeff Noechel all over again with Bobby Hathaway. Reed Williams is a solid back up, like Hathaway was. The lurking Barry (The Pipe) Wright is No. 46 in Blue. Watch him if you can. He creeps up on the line in blitzing packages and has been known to put his hand in the ground.

+WLB--With Mortty Ivy sidelined, there is a depth question behind All-Big East Kevin "Boo" McLee. Rookie Ovid Goulbourne (2) is being force-fed fast. Walk-on Phil Plank has made plays at OLB.

+BS--Like Hathaway, Ridwan Malik has developed into a compelling player. A sign of strong coaching. Aaron Meckstroth runs with the 2s. Charles Pugh has missed some spring work for discipline reasons. He will be on the field.

+SS-Eric Wicks seems to force or pick up a turnover in every practice. Honest. Just watch him and you will find the ball (a la Mike Lorello). John Holmes is as physically imposing as The Pipe.

+FS-Abraham "Ham" Jones is there. He is athletic and smart. Quinton Andrews received early spring headlines, but Jones won't hand the job to him.

FINALLY

+There will be a clump of large youngin's on the home sideline. These are unofficial recruiting visitors. They wear nametags so use your binoculars.

+Have fun. Come to the Tailgate and you will. Post early and often on the Blue Lot for those who missed this year's deal.


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