Stew's Views: Day 2

After spending a day dealing with the hottest weather of the year in Morgantown thus far, WVU's head coach was pleased with the progress made on the second day of fall practice.

"We got a little bit better today," said Bill Stewart. "The heat was a great asset to us. I say that because we'll play a lot of games this season in weather such as today's."

"I added two periods today simply because of the heat. We're very cautious (about heat-related medical issues), but we're demanding. And we pushed them. I was pleased at how our guys responded, getting on and off the field and working. They were flying around."

The second-year head coach said after Saturday afternoon's practice that he had set a goal for the defense of generating three turnovers per day in drills that pit the two sides of the football against each other.

While the blue shirts accomplished that on the first day of camp, they only managed one takeaway on Sunday (a fumble forced by linebacker Reed Williams, who stripped the ball from an unidentified carrier), drawing the ire of Stewart and the defensive staff.

"Our goal this year is to create turnovers and get off the field," Stewart said. "Today, they had only one turnover in pass skelly (skeleton) and team situations, so they stayed and ran extra after practice."

"We want our defense attacking. I want our defense off the field. Yes, we were glad they were No. 8 in the red zone last year, but we want the ball. We want more than 53 plays on offense. That's why I did what I did."

Of course, simply having the ball on offense won't be enough if this year's West Virginia team wants to improve upon the mark set by last season's squad. The offense will have to take those extra plays and use them to move the ball, take time off the clock and, obviously, score points.

When Stewart looks at the names on his offensive roster this year, he sees reason for both optimism and concern.

"I like our quarterback," said the former position coach of current WVU signal-caller Jarrett Brown. "I always have been one of his biggest fans. This is his time to shine. Will he? I don't know. I hope he does."

"If we keep No. 7 (running back Noel Devine) healthy and get some play by a wideout, we have a chance. It's all up to the offensive line now on how good we'll be. I'm not panicking and worrying about them. I think they'll give great effort, but they will make mistakes here and there because they are young."

Those miscues are simply a fact of life early in camp -- not only for the young offensive line but for the team as a whole. While there's plenty of rust to polish off before the season begins, the head coach said his team is trying its best at this early stage.

"What I see us doing is hustling to the ball and giving effort," Stewart said. "As long as they give effort, hustle to the ball and play tough, we'll be okay. To play tough, you have to practice tough and you have to want to be tough. It doesn't just happen -- we found that out last year in our second game (a loss at East Carolina)."

"We weren't ready last year. Hopefully this year we'll be a little more wise and more ready."

NOTES:

  • Stewart said the West Virginia players will wear "shells" (adding light shoulder pads to their helmets and shorts) for Monday's practice.

    The head coach had previously said the first practice in full pads will come on Wednesday.

  • Place-kicking continues to be a cause for some concern, as Stewart termed the efforts of kickers Tyler Bitancurt, Josh Lider and Cameron Starke as "just average" on Sunday.

    "We have a long way to go there," he said.

    "I thought we punted the ball pretty well today, but we did not do the PAT/field goal as well as I'd like."

    The head coach, who doubles as WVU's special teams coordinator, said that while Scott Kozlowski appears to have a hold on the punting job, both Lider and Bitancurt are competing for the job of kicking off.

  • While the practice report posted earlier today mentioned Tyler Urban's work with the running backs in part of practice Sunday, the head coach somewhat dismissed the probability of the tight end moving into the backfield.

    "He will not be in the backfield very often with Ryan Clarke and Will Johnson back there," Stewart said. "They both have better fullback-type bodies. I would like to see Urban stay up in the tight end spot."

    "He has three more years left. He has a chance to be pretty good."

  • On the injury front, offensive lineman Don Barclay continues to participate fully in practice. Barclay is coming off an injury sustained in the Gold/Blue Spring Game.

    "I thought Barclay practiced hard," Stewart said. "His foot was a little sore last night, as it should be, be he did a nice job. He flew around and he's giving effort."

    True freshman quarterback Eugene Smith once again donned a green (limited participation) jersey Sunday, but the head coach seemed to be pleased with his progress in terms of fully recovering from the foot injury he sustained this summer.

    "Smith did better today than I anticipated with his foot," he said. "His mind is tying his feet up right now. He's a typical freshman and we're throwing the offense at him right now. Geno has a long way to go."


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