Stew's Views: Back to Work

With his team working through the morning hours, WVU head coach Bill Stewart wasn't ready to accept any excuses from media members who also trudged through heavy snow and poor road conditions to watch the Mountaineers practice.

With around six inches of snow on the ground and more coming down in Morgantown (and roads in less than optimal condition), West Virginia began a week of what Stewart called "camp mode" practices in preparation for the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl.

As some media members strolled inside the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility late, the second-year head coach was ready, calling them out for their tardiness. He emphasized his displeasure with that as he started his post-practice briefing, chiding the media for not being as on time as his players were.

To quickly set a tone that work was to be done in the coming days, Stewart called for a practice in full pads that focused on hard-hitting drills. Special focus was paid early in the session to the "inside" drill -- where running between the tackles was the emphasis.

"We hit," Stewart said. "These guys are still learning. It's a game of fundamentals. We've got to go down to Florida State in the Gator Bowl, and whoever blocks and tackles and plays the hardest is going to win."

"That's why we did it."

The drills mostly matched the first-teamers on both sides of the ball against the reserves on the opposite side. As might be expected, the top units on both defense and offense dominated their work, with few gains for the second-team offense and few quick stops for the second-team defense.

As for Stewart's desire to see contact, he certainly got his wish.

The sound of pads popping reverberated throughout the indoor facility for much of the session, especially in the inside drill, a third-and-6 drill, and one-on-one and small group work that pitted defensive and offensive linemen against each other.

That left him wanting to back off the intensity tomorrow.

"Tomorrow, I'm going to take them out of pads," Stewart said. "I'm afraid they're going to hurt each other."

Saturday's practice was largely dominated by the blue-clad defense.

In the third-and-6 work, which was occasionally "good on good" (matching first-team offense against first-team defense) but mostly had backups going against starters, the offense managed only one first down.

That came when the second-team offense converted a long pass by Eugene Smith, who fit a ball over the shoulder of his receiver and away from the two defenders that were cloaking the pass-catcher.

"We went third downs again, and that was very good work," Stewart said. "They can compete. The defense looked like it got a pretty good upper hand in there today. Last week was the opposite -- the offense gashed them."

In an effort to ensure conditioning remains at a high level, players did the majority of their running at the end of practice, when they were already fatigued from a morning's worth of work.

The head coach will be looking for similarly intense practices before the staff "turn (players) loose to their families" for the holiday break after Wednesday's practice.

That starts with tomorrow's session, which will not involve pads or hitting. It will come after team meetings and film work.

"We'll come out here tomorrow and be on the field an hour and a half," Stewart said. "It's going to be fast and situational. We'll do two minute (drills) against each other at the end. We're getting ready for Florida State and getting the game plan in."

RIFLE REPORTS:

  • Around 10 players had to miss the session while they took a make-up final in a communications class. Travel during the football season had held them out of some of the regular exams through the year, leading to the need for a Saturday make-up.

    Among those held out were starters Noel Devine, Robert Sands, Sidney Glover, Selvish Capers and Tyler Bitancurt.

    "It's fine. That's what you have to do," Stewart said. "We're student-athletes. So we had to take care of some tests."

    The missing starters left gaps in the lineup, allowing backups to receive some extra attention from the coaching staff at a critical point in the season.

    "I told the other guys that were here, ‘Don't look at it as manner of a punishment. Look at it as a chance to get more reps and get better today,'" Stewart said. "They said, ‘Yeah, you're right.'"

  • Former WVU quarterback Jeff Hostetler was in attendance at the practice and spoke to the Mountaineers after they had finished their work.

    While the media wasn't privy to exactly what was said, Stewart apparently thought a lot of it.

    "That was powerful," Stewart said. "Jeff Hostetler has ‘winner' written all over him."

  • WVU assistant coaches Chris Beatty and Steve Dunlap both refused to acknowledge whether or not they had been contacted and offered a job by Doc Holliday, who just took over as the head coach at Marshall.

    Reports and rumors had indicated that an offer was extended to Beatty to serve as the Herd's offensive coordinator, while Dunlap was purported to have a chance to head back to Huntington to serve as defensive coordinator.

    Beatty said he had been on a recruiting trip in Houston earlier in the week -- on behalf of West Virginia.

    "It's amazing how many people know about me other than me," he said.

    "I know what jacket I'm wearing. It's really kind of funny to me. People try and put two and two together and it doesn't always equal four. I'm here until somebody tells me different."


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