Week one of preseason camp was a bit of a "getting to know you" for the Mountaineer football program. Week two? Not so much. Now more than halfway through fall camp, Bill Stewart and his coaching staff are raising the intensity level at Milan Puskar Stadium. It began with Monday afternoon's practice which Stewart compared to a 1950's workout under then-head coach Art ‘Pappy' Lewis. It will continue through the end of the week.
The purpose? Separate the men from the boys, and identify which players have proved themselves ready to take the field, and which have not. Though the morning practice of Tuesday's two-a-day was light, in shells, the afternoon practice, Stewart promise, would be anything but.
"We'll have a fundamental practice early, then go into situations and smack each other around a little bit," he said. "And then, we'll do it again tomorrow. We're going to do it every day this week. That's what the second week of camp's about. They're acclimated, their helmets are adjusted and their pads all fit, so we're going to bust ‘em."
One part of Stewart's message which the head coach looks to be getting across more and more each day is a zero-tolerance policy for a lack of discipline. During spring drills and the first week of camp, more than a handful of Mountaineers could be seen sprinting up and down the aisles of the lower levels at Mountaineer Field. Each day, though, fewer players are familiarizing themselves with the battleship gray complexion of the stadium steps.
"I only had to put one on the stadium steps today," Stewart said. "When we get to where there are none, then that will be good, but it's just a form of discipline. We will have discipline in this program. We've had it, and we will continue to have it in future years. That's what makes Mountaineer football fun."
One transgression which is sure to provoke some form of punishment from the coaching staff is putting the ball on the ground. With a trio of newcomers competing for the right to backup Noel Devine at tailback, a case of fumble-itis has broken out over the past week and change, leaving Stewart shaking his head and – for the time being – leaving the aforementioned rookies on the outside looking in when it comes to the depth chart at tailback.
Until the individual mistakes are eliminated, the culprits will not see any game action for the Mountaineers.
"We don't have a backup running back other than Jock Sanders that we'll put in the game," vowed Stewart. "I'll put Jarrett Brown at quarterback and Pat White at running back before I put somebody in there who's going to fumble the football. Until those guys get better at what they're supposed to do there won't be any freshmen or JuCo guys playing running back."
In addition to today's two-a-day, the Mountaineers will have an officiated scrimmage tomorrow afternoon, followed by another two-a-day on Thursday.