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Shoulder bothering West Virginia safety Sands

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Robert Sands admitted he is a little nicked up. He just won't say where.

West Virginia's starting safety has played through what looks like a lingering shoulder injury so far in 2010. In three of the team's first four games, the junior defensive back has clutched his shoulder in pain after making a hit.

"Everybody's banged up a little bit, but that's everybody," Sands said. "I'm no different. I'm not going to discuss the types of nicks and bruises I have. Just know I'll be out there every game."

Despite the injury, the 6-foot-5 Sands is the team's fourth-leading tackler with 19 and had a bye week after West Virginia's 20-14 loss at LSU to recuperate. The Mountaineers play UNLV in a nonconference game Saturday.

"It's tough, but it's part of football. You're never at 100 percent," Sands said. "When you're at 100 percent, it's rare. To just be able to go out there and play is good enough for me."

At less than 100 percent, Sands has made a significant impact. Opponents thus far have avoided Sands' coverage, leading to no pass breakups or interceptions this season. In his career, Sands has five interceptions and eight passes defensed.

West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said it's hard to tell one of his players to tackle with less impact in order to protect an injured area.

"When they fly around, I don't know how to not coach that. I don't want to tell them to slow down, and then they have to speed up," Stewart said. "I don't say much about that. I just try to tell them to wrap up."

UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said Sands stands out when watching tape of the Mountaineers.

"They've got some really good-looking kids," said Hauck, in his first season with the Rebels. "Their safety, Sands, is an impressive guy."

Devine bouncing back

Running back Noel Devine, nursing a bone bruise in his foot, is expected to play, Stewart said.

Devine suffered the injury in the loss to LSU on Sept. 25. Stewart said Devine complains of "aches" when the back pivots.

"He's a really good player. Good back, great speed. He has the ability to make people look silly in the open field and go the distance on every play," Hauck said. "He's special."

Stewart said Devine stayed in the football facility for treatment most of Monday, only leaving for class.

Elsewhere, Stewart expects offensive lineman Josh Jenkins (minor knee surgery) to be cleared to play against UNLV. Stewart wasn't sure, however, if Jenkins would see any action.

All eyes on UNLV

Stewart understands the challenge of keeping his team healthy Saturday for its Big East opener against South Florida five days later.

Still, Stewart said the team is fully focused on defeating UNLV despite the quick turnaround.

"We've got to win this football game. That's our sole objective," Stewart said.

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