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Published: 4/14/2010

Rodriguez's time at West Virginia investigated

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR - Already in the middle of an NCAA investigation at his current job, Rich Rodriguez soon may face problems at his former place of employment.

Multiple reports yesterday said NCAA investigators have approached West Virginia University officials about potential rules violations within the football program, and Rodriguez, who is a WVU alum and coached the program from 2001-07, is at the center of the allegations, a source told ESPN.com.

During yesterday's weekly press conference with Rodriguez, a reporter's question to the coach concerning the matter was cut off by a university official. Rodriguez did not intervene.

UM and Rodriguez are already in trouble with the NCAA after a recent investigation determined the program violated five NCAA rules, most of them related to non-adherence of hourly practice limits. What, if any penalties will be imposed against the program and Rodriguez, have not been determined.

An ever growing number of younger guys have used their first spring at Michigan to improve their standing.

It may be premature to speculate where guys like Cam Gordon, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and Denard Robinson will wind up on the depth chart, but it's obvious all three, along with an assortment of others, have done well for themselves.

Though this is good news for UM, it's hardly surprising. It often is during an athlete's second year in the program that he achieves the most dramatic level of improvement.

"The biggest expectation from a coaching standpoint as far as guys improving usually happens between the first and second year," coach Rich Rodriguez said yesterday.

Rodriguez and his staff, along with fans, will evaluate the team for the final time prior to the fall at Saturday's spring game. Because UM is devoid of enough bodies to comprise two full squads, the game's format will be a scrimmage.

Still, it should be an opportunity for outsiders to see which players are gaining the trust of their coaches, although Rodriguez said most of the front-line veterans will play a couple of series and then take the rest of the day off.

One might argue Gordon has had the most productive camp of anyone on the team. A receiver last year, Gordon redshirted and then moved to deep safety in UM's new 3-3-5 defense.

"Cam Gordon has been really consistent all spring," Rodriguez said.

Toussaint was injured early in fall camp and redshirted, although that may have been the plan even before the injury. Healthy, the Youngstown product is among a host of running backs looking to replace Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown.

"Fitz Toussaint has really come on the past couple of practices," Rodriguez said.

Other second year guys receiving praise from coaches are nose tackle Will Campbell and defensive backs Justin Turner and Vladimir Emilien.

Campbell has been getting extended work while Mike Martin works his way back from surgery, and Turner and Emilien are expected to battle for spots at cornerback and safety, respectively. Turner is apparently behind Troy Woolfolk and J.T. Floyd on the depth chart but could ultimately be moved to safety.

Rodriguez has also emphasized the development of three redshirt freshmen offensive linemen. Michael Schofield, Taylor Lewan, and Quinton Washington could all push for playing time if not starting spots.

And then there is Robinson, who looks much improved from last year when he displayed a slow and sometimes awkward throwing motion. Rodriguez said the QB battle between Robinson and Tate Forcier could go into fall camp.

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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