While much of fall camp is about X's and O's and Jimmys and Joes, there are also some preseason preparations which can only be taken care of during the football-only fortnight.
Take, for instance, this coming Friday, which happens to be the next to last day of preseason practice. In the afternoon, the Mountaineers will hit the field for their regularly-scheduled afternoon workout. Following practice, head coach Bill Stewart will hold his regularly-scheduled evening news conference. So far, so normal, right?
Then, following Stewart's remarks, players, coaches, managers and the video staff will board a handful of busses and make the 45-minute drive to Washington, Pa.
That's right. No, the Mountaineers haven't been bussing back and forth between "Little Washington" and the University City throughout camp. Yet with dozens of newcomers in the program – both on the field and on the staff – the ins and outs of a WVU road game are foreign concepts to many-a-Mountaineer. And with classes beginning next Monday, the opportunity to simulate a road trip experience prior to the season's first away game (September 6 at East Carolina) will be essentially non-existent after this weekend. Thus, the logic behind Friday's getaway, which will include instructions on how to execute even the simplest of situations which pop up on a regular road trip.
"We'll learn how to check into the hotel," said Stewart. "We'll learn how to get on the bus, where to sit. There's an offensive bus, a defensive bus and a special teams bus. They'll learn how to act."
The method behind Stew's madness is simple. By simulating a road trip, any anxiety or unfamiliar situations which could pop up on the trip to ECU or subsequent road games can be nipped in the bud.
"When we go on a road trip for West Virginia University, it's a business trip. This is not a pleasure-seeking joyride," said Stewart. "Now, we don't go with our guts wrenching and tense, but we don't go like we're on the eighth grade picnic or going to Washington D.C. to see the monuments. We're going to play a football game."
On the trip, players will be given their road roommate assignments for the upcoming season, matched up by the coaching staff usually based on age or position. They'll go through the Friday night dinner and a movie routine, and on Saturday morning, become acclimated with all that goes on prior to boarding the busses to the stadium. Then, they'll hop aboard and get ready to play. Saturday's bus ride will conclude in Morgantown, where the team will hold its final scrimmage prior to the start of classes.
For this weekend only, though, the Friday night itinerary will also include a takeoff on The Gong Show, starring the freshmen and newcomers.
"We'll have a little bit of fun time," Stewart said with a grin. All coaches are fair game. We have a Friday night routine with the freshman. They bust on each other."
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Following an hour of open practice on Wednesday, the Mountaineers took part in a brisk 60-play scrimmage, complete with Big East officials.
Stewart was pleased with the play of sophomores Noel Devine and Jock Sanders. Devine ran for a score during Wednesday's scrimmage, while Sanders continues to show that he is more than capable of backing up his fellow Floridian at running back while also holding down a starting position in the slot.
"Jock Sanders is having a tremendous camp," gushed Stewart.
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Will Johnson looks to be very close to a return to unlimited action. The sophomore fullback/tight end is out of a boot and into full pads, participating in a number of drills on Wednesday. Johnson's absence, while not generally seen as a good thing, has given freshmen Ryan Clarke, Tyler Urban and Ricky Kovatch invaluable experience working with the offense.
Sophomore linebacker J.T. Thomas missed the scrimmage with a slight sprain of his foot, though Stewart noted that his standout Sam could have played if it were an actual game. It is unknown whether or not Thomas will be full-go for Saturday's scrimmage.
Thursday will be the final two-a-day of fall camp.