Odds and ends
West Virginia played North Carolina State last night for the right to go to the semi finals of the National Invitational Tournament in New York City. No big deal to the masses of the college basketball world where the focus is on the field of 65 which has now been pared to the Sweet 16.
But for WVU and its fans, this NIT is a big deal. Remember back in October, few of even the most optimistic fans gave this team a realistic shot for a 20 win season. At that time a berth in the NIT was a reasonable goal. Now, after having just missed a third straight trip to the Big Dance and two trips to the Sweet 16, some of the Mountaineer fans are less than enthusiastic about an NIT appearance.
If this were a team loaded with seniors the disappointment would be understood, but there are just two seniors on the team which is bolstered by sophomores and freshmen. An extra three or five games and two weeks of practice can only pay dividends next year.
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Head coach Rich Rodriguez and the West Virginia football team are into their third week of spring drills. Running back Steve Slaton is not participating in contact portions of the drills due to the surgery recently done to repair a broken bone in his wrist. Slaton is expected to be completely healed for fall camp.
Rodriguez is hoping to improve a porous defense which led to WVU's high powered offense being a necessary component to win games. There will be no scheme changes as coach Rod will stay with the 3-3 stack defense and attempt to "raise the level of play" of his players.
On offense the focus is on developing a corps of wide receivers. Darius Reynaud will head up the unit but how the rotation develops from there will be interesting. One of the more interesting players entering the rotation will be Nate Sowers, the former Martinsburg High School Kennedy Award winning quarterback.
It looks as if Sowers, who did spot duty at receiver last year while in the role of the number three quarterback, will now be a full time wide receiver. As talented as Sowers was as a quarterback, he just wasn't going to beat out Pat White and Jarrett Brown. Sowers' athleticism and aggression, evident on special teams last year, will serve him well at wide out.
A good problem to have is the one Rodriguez has at quarterback now that Adam Bednarik is trying to recover from a second shoulder surgery. Bednarik was the starter in 2005 until an injury allowed White to assume full control of the WVU offense. Last year Bednarik was unable to return and Brown won the backup job over Sowers. There are only a handful of schools in the country Brown could not start for and WVU is one of them.
Now it appears Bednarik is nearly back to his old form sooner than expected. After a scrimmage last week where all three quarterbacks were particularly sharp, new quarterbacks coach Rod Smith was impressed. The new assistant from Franklin suggested that no other team in the country could have three better quarterbacks than West Virginia's three, all of whom have started and won at WVU. Smith was the offensive coordinator at South Florida when the Bulls knocked off WVU last fall.