Learning Process

West Virginia assistant coach Bill Stewart is drawing on numerous resources for his new job coaching tight ends and fullbacks for the Mountaineer football team.

Stewart, who moved over from the quarterbacks to make room for Rod Smith, who returned to his home state from South Florida, has taken to the job with his usual infectious enthusiasm. Drawing on a long career, plus a valuable resource within the Puskar Center, Stewart has made the move with few problems.

"I was the tackle and tight end coach at Arizona State in 1988 and 1989, and at all of my coaching stops before that I always worked with them as well, because I was the offensive line coach," Stewart detailed. "Marshall, Navy, William & Mary and North Carolina -- I worked with the tight ends at all of those schools."

"Being a head coach and offensive coordinator in the pros (Stewart had a stint in the Canadian Football league with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers), I worked with those guys and met with those guys as well. When you coordinate the offense, you have to know what each position does and how to coach them, so that experience has been helpful."

During his career, Stewart has come in contact and worked with hundreds of other coaches, and the relationships he has forged have also been a valuable asset as he worked out his plans for the tight ends and fullbacks. From drills to points of emphasis to teaching techniques, Stewart has mined all of the resources available to him.

"I have buddies all over and talk with them a lot," he said. "And then, [the WVU coaches] all sit in meetings and talk every night. We sit in there at night and watch film and bounce ideas off each other. And we all still go to clinics and pro camps. There are always places to learn new things."

While tight end might not be the focal point of the offense for fans watching the game, Stewart believes that it is an excellent place to begin putting the offense together.

"I always watch the tight end, because I think it is a great place to coordinate from," he said. "The tight ends are always participating on the inside drills, they are always involved in seven-on-seven and they are involved in team [11-on-11]. It's not like it is when you are the line coach and you have to coach all five linemen. The quarterback coaching spot or the tight end coaching spot is much better to coordinate from, because you have fewer guys. I've done that in the Canadian League too, so I think that helps."

Stewart also has a bonus next door to his office in the Puskar Center, where Calvin Magee resides. Magee was an All-American in college and a proven NFL starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so Stewart isn't shy about picking the brain of his colleague.

"Calvin Magee wasn't a bad tight end in his day," Stewart said with more than a twinkle in his eye. "We talk all the time. We'll get him up and ask him how he blocked something in college, and we talk things through."

Magee, for his part, bounces much of the praise right back in Stewart's direction. In addition to the knowledge that's being transferred, the relationship the two coaches have speaks to the way in which the Mountaineer staff works together.

"We all help each other," Magee said. "I go to him with a lot of stuff too, because he's a veteran. I just happen to have played tight end, so there are things that I can bring to the table, some little things that I can help with. But it's a mutual thing that all the coaches do"

Magee also joked that his days of getting down in a stance and demonstrating how he did it are past.

"I don't think I will," he said with the big rumbling laugh that personifies his outgoing nature – one that meshes well with Stewart's sunny outlook. "I like the two-point stance the best now."

With all those resource to draw upon, there might be a danger of getting lost in the details, or being confused by conflicting opinions. Stewart avoids that, however, by taking everything he sees and learns and fitting it into a simple framework.

"It all comes back to common sense really," he said. "Get repetitions, get better at the basics. You don't need to stand over the players and beat them in the head. Just coach them up and do the best you can."

For Stewart, the move has also been good on a personal level.

"It's been good for me, because I think I can bring a spark to the position. I haven't worked with this position in 20 years, so I'm excited. The guys have been good to work with. They have jumped right on board. I've worked with Greg Frey on the offensive line, and I have worked with the fullbacks some, so it has been a very easy transition. It's been fun, and one that I have had a blast doing. I am like a kid in the candy store."


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