"If you can't block and you can't tackle, then you're in for a rude awakening," Stewart said on Wednesday. "I'm a great believer in the Vince Lombardi theory that that's what it's all about."
On the fifth day of spring practice, West Virginia players suited up in full pads for the first time and promptly worked on those fundamental parts of the equation by opening practice with the "V" (once more for victory) drill, also known as the Oklahoma drill.
The drill is designed to maximize intensity quickly, as only a few players participate at a time, while the rest of the team and the entire coaching staff watch.
"I really enjoyed our guys competing," Stewart said of the performance in the drill. "It was a real battle. Those first two periods, there was intensity. There was some hitting, and there was some not-so-good stuff."
Among the "not-so-good" in the head coach's mind was the lack of toughness from a foursome of younger players who were forced to run the stadium steps as punishment for their poor performance.
"They didn't hit," Stewart said. "They didn't stay after it. They weren't tough, and they weren't intense enough for me."
"Two were receivers and one was a tackle that dove at the ankles. I want them to hit straight on the chin on defense and I want them to block (on offense). If they can't block and tackle, then they can run up and down the bleachers and sell Coca-Colas. I'm just getting them in shape for that."
Beyond the Oklahoma drill, Stewart wanted to see his special teams units work on punting and place-kicking against a rush. The head coach continued to be largely pleased with the work done by punters Scott Kozlowski and Gregg Pugnetti.
"We wanted to pressure the punter," said the Mountaineers' special teams coordinator. "We backed (the ball) up and I told (graduate assistant and former WVU holder) George Shehl, ‘I don't care if you put 12 over there, 10 over there or 14, just come with however many you want and we're going to pressure the punter.'"
"Scott Kozlowski and Gregg Pugnetti -- both of those young men did pretty well, and that was pleasing to see."
The final part of the practice was reserved for a situational scrimmage based that pitted the offense and defense against each other in the red zone. Last season's West Virginia defense ranked in the top ten nationally in red zone efficiency defense, and with most of the key players returning to that unit, the offense faced a stern test.
"We wanted to battle (the two sides of the ball) today, on the first day of full pads," Stewart said. "That's what we did."
"I felt good about it. It was a good practice. We have a lot of mistakes and a lot of things we need to work on, as everyone in America does at this time. But that's the direction we're heading in."