Sending The Message

West Virginia's practice Friday was highlighted by a series of completed deep passes and solid offensive execution. But that wasn't really what head coach Bill Stewart wanted to emphasize.

Instead, the first-year mentor used the media to send a message to his team and school administration. After a lackadaisical Wednesday session, Stewart and his coaching staff met the team at 6 a.m. Thursday for an impromptu practice that was led by the strength and conditioning staff. While the football assistants, dressed in normal everyday attire, sipped coffee and watched, Mike Joseph and crew put the players through 80-yard sprints and other running drills in what Stewart termed a "wonderful bonding session." Three players also left a Wednesday class early, and Stewart had them run steps in another family moment. One player wore what the coach said was a "a shirt not becoming of a Mountaineer football player." So the player ran. Three players didn't stretch correctly. So that added to the four on the steps.

Stewart informed the media of all this, then jokingly noted "of course, all that's family business. I know none of it will get reported." But make no mistake, Stewart has begun to send the signal that nonsense will not be tolerated. It was using the media without dodging the question. Just pure honesty.

Besides the discipline issues, West Virginia's recent on- and off-field execution has been excellent. The offense controlled third and midrange today, while the defense dominated third and long. The lone surprises were the defensive bottling of the run game on third and short and the offense's big play ability by striking deep through the air. The highlight came when Alric Arnett beat the defensive backfield and hauled in a gorgeous 60-yard pass on the run from Jarrett Brown to end the scrimmage. But tight end Will Johnson and receiver Brandon Hogan also made a several nice catches, though Hogan fumbled twice when hit. Stewart also said that Brown is gaining, both in knowledge and on Patrick White, since returning to the team following basketball season.

"By and large he is picking it up pretty quick," Stewart said. "The guys are helping him. And I am really pleased with Patrick White. The guy is really, really coming. … I am very pleased. I wanted no wet balls today (a reason the team went inside). We needed a big move-the-chains pass schedule. I wanted that to be real sharp, and we had some big plays on both sides of the ball. We made some nice long catches. Pass rushing we worked on, too. The defense was flying around."

Stewart also signaled out Kent Richardson and J.T. Thomas as excelling. Quinton Andrews also performed well in the backfield in the crisp, 16-period practice that mimicked last Friday's. It seems the coaching staff, as long as the players are performing, will shorten the last weekday practice in preparation for Saturday scrimmages, the last of which takes place tomorrow at 10:25 a.m.

West Virginia will hold position meetings at 9 a.m., then go on the field at 10:05 with specialists. At 10:15 they will stretch, then hold the Oklahoma drill at 10:25. Point-after and punt will follow, with other individual drills. The scrimmage will commence at 10:55 a.m.

"We're getting it on," Stewart said. "The officials better be loose, stretched and ready to go because we are going to get after it. Tomorrow is going to be a sharp, crisp scrimmage. I hope everyone is flying around and having a ball.

"And," he added, "if we don't like the tempo, we'll bond again. I've got nothing to do Sunday at 6 a.m. Just let it be known this coaching staff is ever ready, like the Minutemen, to go at 6 a.m. to help bond."

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