NCF Nation: Eric Jobe
- The team that came out for practice No. 6 won't be the same team you see this fall. At least Stewart hopes not. Several walking wounded wore non-contact jerseys, including receiver Bradley Starks (ankle) and running back Noel Devine (quad). Smith only participates in individual and skeleton drills, no team competitions. Cornerback Brandon Hogan didn't practice as he is concentrating on his academics. And Jock Sanders missed practice because of class. So it was far from a full deck, and Stewart said he was frustrated by a number of busted assignments and broken plays. You could tell the coaching staff's frustration, because after practice several defensive players were made to do up-downs, while the offensive guys ran sprints. Some defensive players argued with each other coming off the field."You have a couple of guys in [non-contact] jerseys, and all of a sudden your leadership starts spiraling down," Stewart said in disgust. "We may be a .500 football team, that's it."
- Coley White is a busy man with Smith limited. White takes every snap during the 11-on-11 and other team drills. He's had a good spring and showed off a stronger arm than I -- and even other frequent Mountaineers observers -- expected a couple of times on Wednesday, on a touchdown pass to Stedman Bailey and a long one to Starks. Smith is almost certain to be the starter, but White can win games if needed at quarterback. The only bad news is his time is so important at quarterback that he can't work on his desired transition to receiver.
- Only saw a little bit of Smith, but he made some nice throws. He's much bigger than last year, too. In fact, he later told me he's put on 25 pounds since the Gator Bowl, which is amazing.
- Bailey, by the way, looked pretty good and made a nice adjustment on one ball. He could be important with very little depth at receiver now that Deon Long and Logan Heastie are gone (and barring a miracle, they aren't coming back).
- Former cornerback Eddie Davis continues to work at receiver, but while he looked fast on the practice field, Stewart called him out as one of many players who did not know their assignments and plays Wednesday.
- I'm very high on Ryan Clarke. The big, bruising runner steamrolled defensive back Darwin Cook at one point. No surprise, since Cook was yielding about 45 pounds in that matchup.
- Stewart said he's happy with the left side of his line (Don Barclay and Josh Jenkins) and center Joe Madsen. But he wants to see much more improvement from the right side, where Eric Jobe is at guard and Matt Timmerman is at tackle.
- The oddest sight during practice occurred in the end zone, where a couple of players apparently being punished had to slam a giant tire with a sledgehammer repeatedly. Reminded me of something out of "The World's Strongest Man" competitions. But it provided a good drum beat for practice.
- Most discombobulating sight: Starks wearing No. 5 (Pat White's old jersey number) and Devine sporting No. 10 (Steve Slaton's former digits) in their green non-contact shirts.
- Knee-jerk reaction of questionable merit: Hard to make a solid judgment on this team with so many important players out. But you'd think the Mountaineers would be a little sharper just because of all the returning starters who are back. It's still early in the spring for them, and there's plenty of time to turn things up. This team is too talented and experienced not to be a major factor in the Big East race.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights have had four different tailbacks take starring roles this season. Last week, redshirt freshman Joe Martinek ran for 98 yards and two touchdowns at South Florida. The week before, Kordell Young had 143 yards against Syracuse. Earlier this season, Jourdan Brooks and Mason Robinson each had big games, but their roles have diminished of late. Coach Greg Schiano said he determines who will be the featured back each week based on the opponent. "We have to look and see what do we think we're going to try to do most in the run game, and then who fits that description best and try to rep it that way during the week," he said. "It's hard to get more than two backs ready for a game. There's always a third guy that is ready and a fourth guy that's ready, but they don't get many repetitions. I can't tell you right now who that guy will be."
Cincinnati: Should the Bearcats be concerned about kicker Jake Rogers? He lost his job early in the season after missing a few extra points, and coach Brian Kelly wondered about his confidence. But then Rogers came back and tied a school record with 13 straight converted field-goal attempts. Since then, however, Rogers has missed four straight kicks, including all three tries at Louisville. The conditions were poor at wet and windy Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, and Kelly said that had more to do with Rogers' problems than anything. "It's the development of a kicker," Kelly said. "Earlier in the year, he struggled mentally. This time, it was technique. He has a natural draw on his kicks, but they didn't draw because of the wet balls. He hit all of them well, but he missed all of them to right. Then he overcompensated. I'm sure he'll be able to correct it for this weekend."
West Virginia: The Mountaineers could be without starting center Mike Dent for a second straight game this week at Louisville. A mainstay in the lineup the past two seasons, Dent missed the Cincinnati game with a neck injury. Now he has swelling in the neck, and team officials aren't sure what the problem is. Dent could play this weekend, but coach Bill Stewart is fearful of further damage to his neck. Sophomore Eric Jobe got the start versus Cincinnati and likely will be the snapper on Saturday. "Eric Jobe is good.," Stewart said. "He's just not Mike Dent. Mike Dent isn't good, he's great. We had two pro scouts watching tape on him. He's got a chance to play at the next level.''
Pittsburgh: Fourth down doesn't necessarily mean it's time to punt for Pittsburgh. The Panthers have shown an inclination to go for it on fourth down this year, and usually with success. They have converted 13 of their 17 fourth-down attempts, a 76.5 percent rate that ranks sixth-best in the nation. An outstanding running game and a strong offensive line gives coach Dave Wannstedt confidence in going for the gamble. "I think that every time we get in a fourth-down situation our players want to go for it," he said. "That's a normal reaction. They're like the fans and the media. I think you have to look at the defense and what we feel we can execute and then try and make up a sound decision as to what your chances are of making it. You don't want to do something just to do it. We have been outstanding though."
Syracuse: Quarterback Cam Dantley has struggled in his past few games and was pulled for Andrew Robinson in the Connecticut loss. Dantley was just 3-of-12 for 19 yards against Rutgers and 4-of-16 for 38 yards with an interception against UConn. Robinson hasn't been much better in relief, going a combined 4-of-14 for 29 yards and throwing two picks in those same two games. Cody Catalina even got a couple of looks under center versus the Huskies. Coach Greg Robinson isn't saying yet who will be the starter this week at Notre Dame.