Although WVU started its spring football drills as late as possible, it wasn't anticipating getting Eugene Smith on the field for work against a full defense. However, that may have changed with the arrival of some good news from the medical and training staff.
"I was told today that Geno will be ready to go the last week [of spring practice)," head coach Bill Stewart said on Monday. "I am going to have to think about that. We may put him out there and keep the other guys back. There are some guys at other schools that are doing this, where you keep them out of the danger zone but still practice."
Of course, the benefits of getting Smith practicing in a full team situation, have to be weighed against the possibility of re-injury. Stewart knows that no matter what he decides to do, there are pluses and minuses involved.
"I am trying to use horse sense," Stewart said with a smile. "I watch Geno very closely. I watch how he moves, I watch how his feet are working, I watch how he pivots. I will continue to watch him this week very closely, and try to get a feel for it, and then make a decision next week."
Stewart and the coaching staff have done everything they can to get Smith as much work as possible during the spring, and he is happy with the way the redshirt freshman has competed.
"We've done skelly, we've scripted plays, we've done compete like game situations, because Geno needs to see as much as he can see and work with the receivers as much as he can," Stewart explained "It's good to get him exposed to as many reps as he can take."
Still, Stewart knows that nothing can take the place of repetitions against a full defense, so it's clear that he will carefully consider the chance to get Smith some work against a full defense. Even if he does, however, he'll take every precaution to prevent contact for the quarterback. Defenders will be cautioned to stay well away from Smith in the pocket, and there certainly won't be any running on Smith's part.
"I'd like to put him out there in a pair of steel-toed workboots," Stewart joked, "or get some of those catcher's shinguards like the umpires wear that come down over their feet. I'm not worried that he's going to hurt himself, but I just worry taht someone might step on him. We are just going to pay close attention and see how he moves this week."
West Virginia will practice four times this week and twice next week before the Gold-Blue Game on April 30.