Stew's Views: Injury Recovery

While a veritable litany of WVU players were injured in some way during the team's 35-20 win over East Carolina, most of those players are expected to be in the lineup for this Saturday's match-up.

Among those who got "nicked up," in the parlance of Mountaineer head coach Bill Stewart, tight end Tyler Urban, cornerback Keith Tandy and backup defensive lineman Josh Taylor are all at full strength.

Additionally, the coach seemed optimistic that Trippe Hale, who has been held out of both of the first two games of the season, could return to action. The Alabama native would surely like the opportunity to get back on the field against Auburn this Saturday night.

Still, Stewart said that Hale would have to work at full speed in practice this week to see just how well the hip flexor in his groin would handle the workload.

"We're not going down (to Auburn) to sight-see," he said. "We're going down to play a football game. We're on a business trip, so we're going to take people who can contribute to that."

Two more significant injuries sustained by West Virginia players both occurred on the defensive side of the ball during the ECU win, and both are listed as "day-to-day" as of now.

Defensive lineman Scooter Berry's situation is perhaps the more bleak of the two. After sustained a shoulder sprain, he came in to the Milan Puskar Stadium on Monday (a day the rest of the WVU team has off) for a rehabilitation session in the team's pool.

"He did a very nice workout, from what I've heard," Stewart said. "(The trainers) were pleased with the progress."

"We hope Scooter will play We don't know if he will. We don't want to get him hurt (further). This is only game three. If he can play, we'll have him out there. I plan on taking him on the trip, so I'm optimistic."

The second-year coach said Berry would get in the game if he is close to 100 percent on Saturday, but that even in that case, there would be a bit more rotation of players along the defensive line than usual to keep the junior in reserve as much as possible.

The situation for linebacker Reed Williams, who sprained a foot in WVU's week two victory, appears to be a bit clearer.

"I was in the weight room with Reed and was talking to him, and that looks a little brighter," Stewart said.

ON DEFENDING AUBURN'S ATTACK:

The Tigers come into their third match-up of the season boasting the nation's second-leading rushing offense (345.5 yards per game) and the fourth-best total offense (572.5).

Those numbers represent a marked turnaround through the first two games for new head coach Gene Chizik and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.

"It's going to be very, very difficult to contain the Auburn Tigers," Stewart said.

"They're fast and they're playing very, very well. It's going to be a tremendous challenge for our guys. They can run it all. They run the draw, the power, they run the belly, the zone, the quarterback, the dart stuff. It's fast. It's good. It's fun to watch when you're not playing them. They do a really good job."

While Malzahn is known as a guru of the spread offense, he has largely been using spread formations to set up a power rushing attack through the year's first two games. The scheme has worked, with running backs Ben Tate and Onterio McCalebb (a former WVU commit) both going over 100 yards in both of the Tigers' early-season wins.

Auburn also will use Kodi Burns, an athletic receiver who was moved to that position from quarterback this offseason, in a quicker package intended to create match-up problems for opposing defenses.

"This is a speed, tempo offense," Stewart said. "They don't interchange (personnel) a lot. They'll take Kodi (Burns) from wide receiver, like (Liberty) did with Mike Brown, and they'll put him back there at quarterback, and bam -- there he goes on a power play or a draw play or an option play. It just gives you fits."

ON KEYS TO OFFENSIVE SUCCESS:

WVU running back Noel Devine had a field day against the Tigers a season ago in Morgantown, running for a career-high 207 yards.

That was part of a late-game offensive explosion for the Mountaineers, which scored 31 unanswered points en route to a 34-17 victory at Milan Puskar Stadium.

However, that game was one of the last for former coach Tommy Tuberville. Stewart said things had changed on both sides of the ball under AU's new staff.

"Defensively, I still see Auburn lining up," he said. "I know those guys very well. (AU defensive coordinator) Ted Roof and I go back to the ‘80s, when I coached against him. I was at North Carolina and he played for Georgia Tech. They've done a tremendous job."

The issue the Tigers had dealing with Devine a season ago was in the scheme they chose to play for much of the game. With a West Virginia offense increasingly geared to make opponents "pick their poison" so to speak, the head coach isn't sure how similarly Auburn will attempt to defend things this time around.

"They were in man coverage," Stewart said. "(Devine) hit the line of scrimmage and there was nobody there (in the defensive backfield). They played a lot of man free. If you get a good back to the line of scrimmage, he's got a chance to make a guy miss."

"Last year, I think our guys gelled and I think we were fortunate to catch Auburn at the time we did. This one is going to be a slugfest. You go into the SEC any time, you'd better have everything work good for you."


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