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West Virginia coach Rodriguez keeping tight rein on Devine


Even after cutting through Maryland’s defense for 136 yards on just five carries last week, don’t expect to see West Virginia freshman Noel Devine taking any playing time away from star Steve Slaton.

West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said he’ll likely continue keeping Devine on the sidelines early in games, then bring him in during the second half to give Slaton a break.

“I still think we don’t have to use him right away, we don’t want to give him too much and overload him,” Rodriguez said. “He’s still a freshman and he’s still learning.”

He’s learning pretty quickly. Devine has rushed for 256 yards and is averaging 15.1 yards per carry for the Mountaineers. The majority of the carries have come in the second half while spelling for Slaton. Devine put together two spectacular runs in the second half against the Terrapins to ignite a lethargic offense.

“Every time he’s had an opportunity, he’s made the most of it,” Rodriguez said.

Devine lacks Slaton’s straight-ahead speed, but his quickness and agility combined with his 5-foot-8, 170-pound frame make him a slippery target for defenses.

“From zero to 20 (yards), he’s as quick as anybody we’ve ever had,” Rodriguez said. “Besides, it’s hard to see him because he’s such a small guy.”

POINTERS FROM THE PROS:@ University of Cincinnati defensive backs got a graduate-level course in guarding receivers this summer from the NFL’s top receiver.

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Johnson joined some of the Bearcats’ informal workouts over the summer, running routes in 7-on-7 practices. He showed up about a half-dozen times on Wednesday nights, giving the Bearcats some pointers on how to cover receivers.

“He taught us a lot of footwork, a lot about patience, a lot about being comfortable,” senior safety Haruki Nakamura said. “One of the biggest things he taught us is the things that he doesn’t like as a receiver that defensive backs do to him. So it helped a lot.”

Apparently so.

The Bearcats gave up only one touchdown in their opening three games, all lopsided victories. Their defense was ranked No. 2 nationally in points allowed and No. 1 in turnover margin this week.

Those sessions with one of the NFL’s best Johnson led the league in yards last season have proven helpful.

“It was more of a confidence booster,” Nakamura said. “You work with him and come back down to work with college guys, and your level of confidence is way different. The first thing you say is: This guy’s not Chad Johnson.”

When Johnson and Bengals teammate T.J. Houshmandzadeh showed up on the sideline for Cincinnati’s 34-3 victory over Oregon State the receivers’ alma mater they also made a point to visit the Bearcats’ sideline.

Nakamura gave Johnson a hug, his way of saying thanks for everything.

TIMELY SWITCH:@ It hasn’t taken Connecticut’s D.J. Hernandez long to make the adjustment from quarterback to wide receiver. Hernandez has already caught nine passes for 164 yards and a touchdowns for the Huskies (3-0) entering Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh.

Hernandez, who threw for 849 yards and nine touchdowns last season for the Huskies, requested the move to wideout in the offseason to the surprise of coach Randy Edsall.

“When I recruited him, I told him he could be quarterback as long as he wanted,” Edsall said. “In the spring, he came and said he wanted to play wide receiver. I thought it made us a better offense as soon as we did that.”

Hernandez had the best day of his quarterbacking career against the Panthers last year, throwing for 164 yards and four touchdowns and adding 130 yards on the ground and the game-winning 2-point conversion in Connecticut’s 46-45 overtime win.

YOUNG OUT FOR YEAR: Rutgers sophomore running back Kordell Young will miss the remainder of the season due to a left knee injury suffered in the win over Norfolk State.

“Mentally, I am handling it pretty well,” said Young. “It is tough to miss the rest of the season, but on the bright side it gives me the opportunity to improve my upper body strength in the weight room and prepare for next season. I can take a lot from watching Ray (Rice) and I will continue to take mental reps on the sideline and stay focused.”

Young was second on the depth chart at running back and was also one of the team’s starting kickoff returners. In 2007, Young totaled 58 yards on 18 carries and averaged a team-best 32.0 yards on three kickoff returns.

HONORS:@ Cincinnati quarterback Dustin Grutza filled in capably for injured starter Ben Mauk during the Bearcats’ 47-10 win over Miami (Ohio) last week. Grutza was named offensive player of the week after completing 25-of-35 passes for a career-high 290 yards and two touchdowns.

West Virginia defensive end Johnny Dingle was selected as defensive player of the week after collecting five tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack in the Mountaineers’ 31-14 win over Maryland.

Connecticut kicker Tony Ciaravino was the special teams player of the week. Ciaravino made all three of his field goal attempts including a 50-yarder in a 22-17 win over Temple.

AP Sports Writer Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this report.

—Associated Press

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