Summer Successes

The currently-ongoing summer workouts for WVU players have been noticeably better than those of a year ago in the eyes of the Mountaineers' head coach and director of strength and conditioning.

Bill Stewart made himself available for a rare mid-summer interview opportunity with the assembled media at the Milan Puskar Center on Wednesday and wasted little time in discussing "what's been going on in Morgantown" over the summer so far.

That discussion centered largely on the improvements being made by West Virginia players in terms of their performance in the weight room under the watchful eye of strength and conditioning coach Mike Joseph.

"Mike Joseph, right now, has our guys on course and on schedule," Stewart said. "That's why I hired Mike Joseph -- because I believed in him so much and knew the job which he could do."

"It's just starting to really, really take shape. Last year was good, this year is better than good. It's not great yet, but that's in the coming. But here and now, we've had some really tough working days that have already happened."

Joseph also seemed pleased with the progress being made by the Mountaineer players in his charge.

"Summer is going very, very good in terms of intensity and effort," he said. "I think the focus is very where we want it going into this time of year. Guys have that hungriness and want to be champions."

"It's not like last year, where we had the transition (of staffs). Just in general, it's a bit different. This year, it's a different aspect."

Indeed, the biggest difference in strength and conditioning from year one to year two may simply be continuity, both for the staff in Joseph's employ and for the players who work with that staff on a daily basis.

A year ago, Joseph found himself taking weight "off the bar" for many WVU athletes as he attempted to force them into performing their lifts with better technique. In terms of injury prevention and isolating the desired muscles, proper technique is the key to success, according to the second-year strength coach.

After a full year, Joseph is satisfied that the veterans are lifting better, and as a result, the weights are fully back on the bar.

"Last year it was more about seeing where they were technique was, seeing where they were weight-wise, which at a point, some guys were held back until I saw the technique I was looking for," he explained.

"In general, they're more comfortable with me (now) in terms of knowing exactly what I want in the field and in the weight room and I know them better mentally in terms of what makes them tick. I think that helps because they trust me and I trust them."

"That's all it comes down to in my area. If they trust me 100 percent, knowing that I'll take care of them and that I want their best interests athletically on the field and their physical performance better, they'll work hard and do everything I ask. Then everything takes care of itself."

While the veterans may know what to expect from Joseph at this point, the freshmen who arrived on campus in early June and those newcomers who will join the fold over the coming weekend have an adjustment period to work through.

"They get a manual (of workouts) back when they sign," Joseph said. "They follow that to the best of their abilities, but until they get here they don't know what it's about."

"When they get here, they go through a very developmental program that's more remedial than what the older guys are doing. When they do agility and conditioning or whatever, they do half about the reps. When they start getting in better shape, once they can handle the workload, I catch them back up to the older guys."

That adjustment can come quickly or slowly depending on how soon the newcomers embrace the program fully.

"Anybody that's competitive, they want to be up to that first point and be competitive with anybody on the team," Joseph said. "But they truly understand that it's going to take a little bit to get there. I think these eight (freshmen) here right now are very very good in terms of attitude and how hard they work, so they'll catch up very quickly."

That catch-up work will conclude soon. Joseph is allowing the veteran players a "recovery" week next week, while the newcomers continue to report for weightlifting sessions.

The players will all be working out throughout July before being given a week off to "get their legs back and get mentally focused for football," in Joseph's words, before the start of fall camp in early August.


  • The eight freshmen currently working out with Joseph are Tavon Austin, Cole Bowers, Branko Busick, Brodrick Jenkins, Pat Miller, Jonathan Scott, Eugene Smith, and Jordan Weingart.

    Joseph said those eight have almost caught up with the veterans in terms of the number of reps being performed in workouts, claiming that they did "all but two" reps in the team's typical agility and conditioning drills recently.

  • Stewart said that defensive end Tevita Finau will be among the newcomers arriving on campus this weekend.

  • Concerning the status of injured Mountaineer players, Stewart said that offensive lineman Don Barclay has had the pins removed from his injured ankle and that he is "on schedule" in his recovery efforts.

    "He's just working like anyone should hope, trying to get back," Stewart said. "According to (head trainer) Dave Kerns and our medical people, he's getting better and better with each passing day."

    Teammates Chad Snodgrass and Tyler Rader have also pleased Joseph with their rehabilitative work.

    "All of those guys are doing an unbelievable job," Joseph said. "They come in every day. If we're on the field running, they're in here doing whatever they can do in the pool or getting treatment."

    "They've done a great job this summer to be in position to be on schedule and be able to play when it's time to play."

  • After the aforementioned freshman Austin raised the eyebrows of linebacker Pat Lazear in 7-on-7 drills (Lazear said in a separate Wednesday interview that the freshman had defenders "googly-eyed" with his array of moves), Stewart addressed the reports of such skill among the youngest of his players.

    "They are doing very well," Stewart said, smiling broadly.

    "We had some reports that the youngsters have energy, they have some athleticism and they have some enthusiasm. And that's all they need to have. We'll teach them the rest -- the upperclassmen, the coaches, the professors. The way of life at West Virginia will be taught to them as the year progresses."

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