Stew's Views: Day 14

With one quality scrimmage just completed and what he hopes will be a well-played game coming up on Saturday, West Virginia's head coach used Thursday afternoon's practice as a chance to get back to basics.

The Mountaineers' 14th and final regular session of the spring was what second-year coach Bill Stewart called a "teaching practice." That was evident all over the field, as the light work was done "with a purpose in mind," according to Stewart.

For example, the team spent part of the afternoon working on red zone plays. Instead of worrying about doing something different now, the WVU staff opted to help prepare to teach concepts to the team's newcomers in fall camp.

"We wanted to take what we felt were our best red zone plays from the spring, get them on film, and teach from that throughout the course of camp," Stewart said.

Beyond the work at hand and with only Saturday's Gold-Blue game separating West Virginia from the completion of its second set of spring drills under Stewart, the coach took the opportunity to reflect on what his charges have done in the past four weeks.

"We've accomplished most things (we set out to)," Stewart said. "I've wanted to see the defense play base and blitz more, so we've been stemming around and working on disguises. We're trying to echo some of the things the Steelers have done.

"We've gotten better at that this spring."

While the defense, which returned the majority of the key contributors from last year's highly-successful unit, has largely been as strong as advertised, the offense still has a way to go in the head coach's eyes.

"Offensively, we've thrown some schemes at them," Stewart said. "I'm pleased with the power running game. That has developed a little more than where it was last year because we have bigger backs.

"We're going to have some great competition when camp comes in with (incoming freshmen) Shawne Alston and Chris Snook coming. Those are two big backs, and it will be really fun to watch those guys develop."

In terms of an offensive identity, Stewart continues to say that balance between the ability to gain yardage on the ground and through the air will be the Mountaineers' M.O.

"We have to get the ball out there and spread the wealth to our wide receivers," Stewart said. "We can't count on No. 16 (quarterback Jarrett Brown) and No. 7 (running back Noel Devine) to win the game for us, just like we couldn't count on No. 5 (departed signal-caller Pat White) and No. 7 to win it. They need help."

To that end, the head coach was pleased with the play of receiver Wes Lyons on Thursday, who hauled in an impressive 35-yard touchdown catch during the team's "skeleton" passing drill, which pits the skill position players on offense against the linebackers and defensive backs.

"Wes Lyons made catch after catch, and I thought Jarrett Brown did some nice stuff," Stewart said.

While most of the skill position players seem to be performing to the head coach's standards, Stewart again said that the offense will have to improve in one particular area come the fall.

"I don't know if we're tough enough," Stewart said. "We have to work on our toughness more in camp."

For this day, at least, finesse work was at the top of the agenda. Special teams work was a key part of practice, as Stewart got the chance to work with those players on covering "pooch" punts and executing punt blocks.

"We went to work on punt block and we got that on film, about four or five reps for each guy where they try to pin the ball on the foot of the punter," Stewart said. "That was good."

With only Saturday afternoon's annual Gold-Blue game left on WVU's spring schedule, the head coach, who will be working with the top-tier gold team, was in the competitive spirit.

After saying that the the blue team will be coached by "the pups," Stewart smiled and said, "I hope they don't beat us."


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