Stew's Views: Day 4

Special teams were obviously on head coach Bill Stewart's mind when he addressed the media on Tuesday following WVU's fourth practice of the preseason.

After witnessing some negatives (two blocked field goals) and some positive (impressive yardage on punts), Stewart was more upbeat than might have been predicted.

"We worked on all phases [of special teams]," said Stewart. "For day four I felt pretty good about our kicking game at this point. We have a long road to hoe. It felt pretty good."

Despite the two blocks, Stewart was nonetheless pleased with the kicker's efforts on field goals.

"I thought the field goals, except for those two blocks -- which you can never have that in a game, that is just a disaster -- was good," said Stewart. "The kickers are kicking pretty well."

Stewart was quick to give credit to the players that caused the blocked field goals. Sophomore Robert Sands batted down the first ball alongside senior Wes Lyons, and Najae Goode was responsible for the second block.

"[Sands and Lyons] did a very nice job," said Stewart. "Robert Sands blocked a field goal in fine fashion. Wes Lyons was beside him. He is 6'8" and can jump. Najae Goode came off of the edge on defense. I wanted to pressure the kickers and we did."

Although Sands may see time as a blocking jumper on special teams, Stewart assures that he won't see 6'5" 215-pound defensive back on kickoff return any time soon.

"He's doing a lot of things," said Stewart with a laugh. "He's a sophomore. He's a real treat. I know with Jock Sanders and the young ones we have back there now we can take the heat off of Robert so that he can really concentrate on defense."

Punters Scott Kozlowski and Greg Pugnetti both had solid performances on Tuesday. The two produced several punts in the 40-plus yard range.

"I thought kickoffs were pretty much on par for this time of the year," Stewart added. "I think our punters now are better roll punters than straight down the line. We are going to continue to work with them very diligently."

The defense has continued to improve after its brief slip-up on Sundays practice. For the second day in a row, it exceeded the goal of three turnovers per practice.

"I was hoping someone would ask about that," said Stewart. "They had four turnovers today. We had two field goals blocked and that does not sit well with the head football coach. We had two picks. Nate Sowers came out of nowhere and 'pow' he made a great interception."

Practice continues on Wednesday afternoon for another single session.

RIFLE REPORTS

In addition to special teams, two other play phases were on the afternoon schedule, according to Stewart.

"We worked on our third down package. We were 43 percent last season, but some of the short yardage in third downs was not as good as it needed be. Therefore, today we really scrutinized those situations.

"We worked on our blitz. We want to get off the field on third down, and felt like that was something we needed to get on top of early in camp."

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Plans to involve the fullback in the game plan are also on tap.

"We want to get the fullback into the game a little bit more this year," Stewart said. "We have not had a fullback here at WVU for a long time. We had a good one in Owen Schmitt, but usually he was a split back.

"If you go back to the Fiesta Bowl when I put in the I formation, it went pretty well. Owen Schmitt took the belly play in for a long touchdown and Noel Devine took two toss sweeps downhill for touchdowns. I am an I formation guy; I think it goes with our spread."


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