No Rest For The Weary

While WVU players may be dealing with a bit of additional mental fatigue with the beginning of classes tacked on to the normal grind of football practice, the Mountaineers' head coach has given them no physical respite this week.

"We hit, and we hit, and we hit and we hit," said Bill Stewart of the agenda in practice this week. "Ask our players tonight how they feel. I don't mind you asking."

"All we've done is hit. Tonight we went in shells, and we hit again, but we did it in a controlled manner. We went pass rush, pass skelly with our wide receivers and two minute offense. We worked situations."

That situational work has been targeted at working on making West Virginia a better, more polished football team rather than game planning for the season-opener against Liberty on Sept. 5.

"At this time, we're taking care of us," the second-year coach said. "If you can't take care of you first, there's no need in worrying about anyone else. We stuck with the slogan of this program: B + T x H2 = V. Hopefully that's what we've done."

While Thursday's practice may have been at least a moderate respite for the players, who were out of full pads and instead donning helmets, shorts and shoulder pads, Stewart said fatigue is still a lingering issue after players dealt with two weeks' worth of camp and a hard-hitting opening week of the academic calendar.

"I think our team is somewhat tired," Stewart said. "They're somewhat bruised and they're kind of banged up from a physical camp. But their spirit is good, their enthusiasm is good and their competition and work ethic have been good. We're pleased with that."

Some of that physicality may subside as the focus of the Mountaineer coaching staff shifts to preparing for the Liberty game for the next week.

While the Flames are a Football Championship Subdivision opponent, Stewart said the season-opener will hardly be a cakewalk.

"They're going to come in here ready to play," he said. "They're not afraid of us one bit. I understand they've got a bunch of guys that can do a 350-pound power clean, so they're strong. They've got great coaches -- coaches that I respect."

There's little doubt that the West Virginia coaching staff would prefer an easy victory over their opposition that would allow them to avoid risking injury to key players, give backups a chance to gain some valuable experience and allow the coaches to call a fairly "vanilla" game and to avoid giving too much information to week two opponent East Carolina.

"We're going to show enough to win the football game," Stewart said. "We're going to show everything we have to show to beat Liberty."

"We're going to have to fight our hearts out and hope we can get them out of the game early. If we can't, it will be a slugfest."

The head coach is preparing his players for the possibility of a competitive game. After Appalachian State's stunning upset of Michigan two seasons ago, that isn't a difficult message to convey, according to Stewart.

"I tell our guys all the time, you better respect all and fear none," he said. "If we don't respect Liberty, the exact same thing (an upset loss) will happen to us and they'll do it without blinking an eye."

NOTES:

  • Stewart said his program expects word from the NCAA Clearinghouse on Friday as to the eligibility of newcomers Jarrard Hunter, Brodrick Jenkins and Pat Miller.

    "The eligibility center is working very hard, probably overtime, very diligently," he said. "We'll know something by tomorrow."

    The trio of freshmen practiced for the vast majority of fall camp before an issue came to light relating to the late submission of high school transcripts and test scores to the Clearinghouse.

    As of last Saturday's camp-ending scrimmage, the head coach said he anticipated no major issues once the NCAA reviewed the information on all three players.

  • The head coach said he would like to get more offensive players involved on special teams. That shouldn't be difficult, considering Stewart doubles as the special teams coordinator.

    "All we do is wear out the safeties and corners and linebackers," he said. "They do everything. Shawne Alston, you're going to see him on kickoff. Ryan Clarke, I saw him blow them up on kickoff -- and we're going full pads, full tilt. It's been fun to watch."

  • A full week after moving Joey Madsen into the starting center slot and sliding Eric Jobe over to left guard, the head coach said that players along the offensive line are again beginning to settle into their roles.

    "The good thing is Jobe is beside (Madsen) to help make all the calls," Stewart said. "With him at guard and Joey Madsen at center and Josh Jenkins on the other side -- those three are gelling and coming along."

    "It was asked earlier of me, ‘Shouldn't you have your offensive line intact so they can (gel)' No. No. We compete every day. If Jarrett Brown doesn't play well, I'll start the next quarterback. I don't get into all of that gelling stuff."


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