Stew's Views: Day Eight

While Bill Stewart had reason to be pleased with his team's defense after Saturday's scrimmage, West Virginia's second-year coach expressed concern about areas of the offense and special teams.

Stewart addressed the media after the Mountaineers concluded their noon scrimmage, which was largely dominated by the blue-clad defense.

"I thought the defense got after the offense pretty good today," Stewart said.

Indeed, linebacker J.T. Thomas and his cohorts made life miserable for quarterback Jarrett Brown and the WVU offense.

Thomas had four sacks of Brown, an interception of one of the signal-caller's passes, and a jarring tackle for loss in which he hit Noel Devine almost before the handoff reached the running back's hands.

"J.T. and Reed Williams were flying around today," Stewart said. "Those two guys are great players. They're special. They bring electricity to the defense, and that is neat to see."

There was plenty of electricity on the defense, which allowed only two touchdowns before the end of practice, when Stewart and company started the offense at the defense's nine-yard line.

"I thought they did a tremendous job of getting off the field," the head coach said of his defense. "The No. 1 defense was really getting after them."

That included Thomas' interception and a Devine fumble that was recovered by Larry Ford. Brown's errant pass came as the senior rolled right and, despite tight coverage downfield, tried to make a play by lobbing a pass.

"Jarrett got a little bit risky with the ball and J.T. picked it," Stewart observed.

While Devine had another solid day with the exception of his fumble, carrying for 97 yards on only six rushes, perhaps the biggest story on offense was the play of fullback Ryan Clarke.

Clarke was tasked with carrying the load for the offense on the aforementioned drives starting at the defense's nine-yard line. At one point, the fullback carried on 10 of 11 play calls.

The redshirt freshman responded with three touchdowns. He scored from five, one, and four yards away.

West Virginia's staff, which has spent the better part of the last two seasons looking for a short-yardage running back, may finally have one if Clarke can play at the level he did Saturday.

"He's got some talent, but he has to do it all the time, every time," Stewart said of Clarke. "When we do that as a football team, we'll be a better team. We need to get tough.

"That's why we put the ball on the goal line today. We needed to see some toughness, and I thought it was good."

Success on special teams, a particular area of emphasis for Stewart, (who doubles as the coordinator of that unit) continued to be a mixed bag.

On the positive side, Scott Kozlowski showed an impressive punting leg in pre-practice drills, consistently booming kicks of around 50 yards from deep in his own end zone.

"I put the ball on the one (yard line) and we did some roll punting," Stewart said. "I wanted to put (Kozlowski) under stress and strain him, which is always good to do. I was pleased with how he punted the ball."

While Kozlowski appears to be well on his way to a firm grip on the punting job, place-kicking duties appear to be up for grabs.

Presumptive starter Tyler Bitancurt did not see action Saturday. Stewart instead opted for backup Keith Coffindaffer, who hit a 27-yard attempt during the scrimmage.

"I fired every kicker today," Stewart said. "They are not tough. They need to realize they're in college and figure out how to fight through pain. We're not tough enough as kickers mentally."


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