Stew's Views: Day Ten

After a second straight day of 6 a.m. practices, Bill Stewart expressed satisfaction with the intensity and quality of the work done by his charges in their Tuesday session.

"I was really pleased," the West Virginia head coach said. "We had them all here on time and guys were doing pretty good. It was a good day for us."

The practice featured extensive work in the passing game, both during a 7-on-7 skeleton drill and live-action 11-on-11 situations.

That followed a trend that has held up all spring thus far.

While there had been extensive talk about increasing the role of the passing game in previous seasons, invariably, then-quarterback Pat White would end up using his legs at least equally as much as his left arm to move the offense downfield.

With Jarrett Brown under center this season, very few called quarterback runs have been witnessed in practice.

"We're doing some more passing because we think we have guys that can make plays for us," Stewart said. "I'm not going to run Jarrett Brown a hundred times a game. I'm just not going to do that. He has an arm. We have good wideouts."

Among those play-makers in the passing game, Gino Crump caught a 21-yard touchdown pass Tuesday morning. Bradley Starks had another impressive day, gaining 29 yards on a catch and run down the middle of the field.

Alric Arnett and Wes Lyons also continued their quality play in the spring, making plays out wide and in the slot, respectively.

Those receivers have continued to develop, not only as pass catchers but as physical presences this spring. Stewart credited the work of position coach Lonnie Galloway, as well as cornerbacks coach David Lockwood, for that improvement.

The two assistant coaches have developed a drill with one receiver facing off against one cornerback while confined to an area of the field inside a hoop.

Players at those positions began Tuesday's practice with the drill once more. It's a workout that emphasizes physicality and toughness -- traits that Stewart and his staff increasingly value.

"That's Lonnie's style," Stewart said. "When you start off your day in that hoop, just you in there with the film running and your coaches and teammates watching, you find out real quick about a guy's intestinal fortitude.

"You're either going to jump on board or you're going to be exposed. That's not barbaric. That's just football."

When talking about that kind of toughness, Stewart was compelled to cite the example of former Yankee first baseman Wally Pipp when talking about injured defensive back Sidney Glover.

Legend says that Pipp sat out a game due to a headache. His replacement was a man named Lou Gehrig, who proceeded to start the next 2,130 games in Pipp's place.

"Sidney better watch that story about Wally Pipp," Stewart said. "You don't make the club if you're in the tub."

While Glover has had to recover, safety Robert Sands has stepped up and moved to the bandit safety position. While there has been a slight learning curve, Sands has performed admirably thus far.

"Sands looks like he's doing a pretty good job," Stewart said. "It's all new to him. Once he gets something, he really gets it. We're throwing a lot at this young man. Bandit, spur, kickoff, punt -- I'm demanding a lot out of Robert Sands because I think he can do it."

Sands is one key cog in a defense that continued to impress Stewart with the way it has performed in the spring.

"Our defense is tough," the head coach said. "They disguise (blitzes and coverages) well, and then here comes a corner or safety firing in."

Facing that defense every day in practice has only made life tougher for an offense that continues to work towards one of the staff's goals -- better developing a short-yardage attack.

To that end, Ryan Clarke again scored from inside the one-yard line Tuesday, but only after the defense had stuffed Clarke and fellow fullback Ricky Kovatch on the previous two plays.

"That's what we keep working on," Stewart said. "We did that again today. I was pleased to see Mr. Clarke get into the end zone. I liked what I saw today with our toughness."

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