Stew's Views -- 08/03/08

On Saturday, Bill Stewart expressed some disappointment in the play of his young tailbacks. On Sunday, the head coach was a shade more optimistic.

Specifically, Stewart expressed his pleasure with the progression of freshman Terence Kerns. The Frederick, Md. native with the physique of a Brahma bull looked to be a little more comfortable on day two of preseason camp, though Stewart cautioned that Kerns and all other rookies have a long way to go.

"Terence Kerns stepped up today a little bit more," Stewart said. "Now, we don't have pads on, but he ran hard. He was a little more knowledgeable today, which he should be on day two."

While Kerns and fellow first-year backs Mark Rodgers and Zach Hulce are all being brought along slowly at the beginning of camp, Stewart would still prefer that at least one of the trio emerge as a bona fide backup to sophomore starter Noel Devine.

"Sooner or later, there's a Louisville game where you don't have time to bring him along, you just call what you call," the coach said. "When will that happen? I don't know. Maybe the first game, tenth game, or next year.

"As a coach, you just can't nurture every little move, so you have to call your plays and hope that they get him," Stewart continued. "He's going to be a real added treat for us if we can get him ready."

Stewart also singled out the play of wide receivers Alric Arnett, Wes Lyons, Tito Gonzales and Dorrell Jalloh on day two. Of Jalloh, Stewart noted that the senior's rise to the top of the depth chart at slot receiver could be a huge assett to the offense, particularly with projected starter Brandon Hogan now experimenting at cornerback.

Defensively, the head coach was thrilled with the play of Bill Kirelawich's charges up front.

"I thought our defensive line did a nice job. They were working on twists, which are tough, but they did a nice job," he said. "A couple of times they flushed Pat, and a couple of times they could have levled him but pulled off.

"I saw some nice plays out of Scooter (Berry), and of course Zac Cooper off the edge, wow," Stew continued. "He's just fast. I was really pleased with what I saw from Pat Liebig, and (sophomore nose guard Chris Neild) just keeps getting better and better."

And although the team has yet to don pads, the play of West Virginia's deep and talented linebacking corps continues to impress all onlookers during fall camp. In fact, the 'backers were so impressive that Stewart pleaded with assembled reporters to spend at least a few moments of their limited practice exposure watching Jeff Casteel's troops.

"To go watch Mortty Ivy and Reed Williams and J.T. Thomas and Pat Lazear and Archie (Sims) and Najee Good, they're like boxers down there," he said. "They're very physical, and that's why they're so good. They play downhill, and they attack. They're fun to watch."

Perhaps nothing during the afternoon workout pleased Stewart more than a moment of mentoring from senior kicker/punter Pat McAfee to freshman Tyler Bitancurt.

After Bitancurt had badly missed a field goal attempt, McAfee stepped forward to offer a word of advice.

"The first time, he watched the ball from the center to the holder and then when he looked up and found the ball on the tee, he looked like me kicking," Stewart said. "Pat McAfee came over to him, and I just stood back and watched him. Pat told him to just watch the hand and stay on his focal point."

And the result?

"Bam! He drove it through. I thought that was really cool."

Stewart said that underclassmen will be paired up with junior and senior "big brothers" later this week. The program has been a staple of WVU football since the Don Nehlen era, and this year will receive added input from offensive line coach Dave Johnson, who will bring wrinkles from a similar program at Georgia.

Practice continues tomorrow afternoon at Mountaineer Field.

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