Stew's Views: Fall Camp Day Two

With an array of offensive weapons at his disposal, it could be easy for Bill Stewart or any other football coach to be tempted to stray from the conventional and use every trick play in the book in the name of creating mismatches.

Sure, a bit of misdirection could be devastating at times, particularly with talented, speedy and elusive players like Tavon Austin, Noel Devine and Jock Sanders on the WVU roster.

But Stewart said he and the rest of his coaching staff must avoid the temptation to stray too far from the norm -- and to obsess about making sure each of those talented Mountaineers (and others) get a specific number of chances to get the ball in their hands per game.

"You say Noel Devine has to touch it so many times, and Jock Sanders has to touch it so many times," Stewart said, shortly after his team finished its second practice of fall training camp Sunday evening.

"Then you want to throw the ball to Bradley Starks so many times, or our tight ends, Tyler Urban and Will Johnson, so many times. Then you put No. 1 out there, Tavon Austin -- and that's been our biggest addition. And our defensive coaches will tell you, man, that guy is lightning in a bottle. He needs to touch the ball.

"So the offensive side of the ball is going to have to condense that, and yet spread the wealth enough to keep defensive personnel and coaches off balance."

But fans shouldn't expect to see a never-ending series of end arounds to Austin or wide receivers like Starks and Coley White frequently showing off their passing skills. Stewart said his team won't stray too far from its bread and butter -- largely because it, too, can be devastatingly effective.

"We're going to run 7 [Devine]," Stewart said, smiling wryly.

That doesn't mean that West Virginia intends to ignore the aerial game. In fact, Stewart saw fit to praise the wide receiver corps, led by position coach Lonnie Galloway.

The third-year head coach said that several players have improved enough to add critical depth to that position in the early portion of fall camp.

"Our wide receiver depth seems to be," Stewart said, pausing to consider his response, "getting more confident, from a coach's eye, so to speak. When you have numbers, it's one thing, but you want to have players.

"I'll tell you one thing -- the Stedman Baileys and the J.D. Woodses have stepped up. They've got a long way to go, but they're players that can come in and spell a Bradley Starks."

And while Ivan McCartney is still a true freshman in his first days as a college football player, Stewart wasn't shy in his praise of the receiver who, according to teammates, made waves throughout summer 7-on-7 workouts.

"Ivan McCartney, he can stretch the field vertically as well as anyone -- any freshman, I would imagine -- around," the head coach said. "So we're kind of pleased with our wide receiver spot right now."

While it may be a daunting task for offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen to try to find the right balance of play calls to earn touches for each of WVU's playmakers, Stewart said he didn't think that same concern would enter into the mind of quarterback Geno Smith.

"I don't think he worries about that," Stewart said. "The great ones don't. The great quarterbacks are more about what they are doing and moving the chains. I know on the sidelines, because I played, you'd say, ‘Hey, get me the ball. I can beat this guy.' That's why you communicate. That's why you're teammates.

"But Geno won't spend much time thinking about that. He's more worried about getting us in the right play and making the right read, and doing what he's supposed to do."


  • The day's session was devoted to "situational things" according to Stewart.

    For the offense, that included work on the two minute drill and a "speed package" with four fast receivers split wide and Devine in the backfield. And the defense, typically known for its unique 3-3-5 base scheme, worked on its ‘40' (or nickel) package, with four down linemen.

    One of those four up front for the blue-clad defense was Bruce Irvin, the highly-touted junior college transfer who is being converted to an outside linebacker in the Mountaineers' typical sets.

    Irvin, like McCartney, is widely expected to get his shot on the field in his first semester at WVU.

    "You want to get a playmaker on the field," Stewart said. "What would be the need to get him here, and then not put him out there, with all his intangibles?

    "Does he work? Is he a hustle guy? Does he do all the right things? He's doing all that, so we're going to find a spot for him. We have to."

  • While no players donned the team's green or red jerseys (signaling limited or no participation in practice, respectively, due to injury) Stewart did say kicker Tyler Bitancurt was not at 100 percent.

    "Tyler Bitancurt wasn't as sharp today," the head coach said. "He just has a little bit of a strain. Those guys kick all summer, and he just has a little bit of a strain, but he's fine."

    Beyond that, the biggest special teams story of the fall may be the battle for the starting punting job. That competition is likely to be a hotly contested one throughout the entirety of preseason camp.

    "Our punters did a nice job, both Greg Pugnetti and Corey Smith," said Stewart of Sunday's efforts. "And I was pleased with Corey Smith's placekicking. He did a nice job. So there's healthy competition, both at the punting spot and the placekicking spot."

  • While there is certainly a need to push true freshmen along and try to speed up the learning curve as much as possible, Stewart said it is critical that certain positions not be overburdened, lest the rest of the team's development suffer as a result.

    "What you have to watch is the two young quarterbacks [Barry Brunetti and Jeremy Johnson], because when you have five linemen up there waiting for the call because we're in no huddle, [the quarterback] has to see a lot of stuff," Stewart said.

    "It's just like a young safety -- like an Ishmael Banks or a Travis Bell. If they miss a call, you have 10 other people waiting. So you have to watch what you give certain positions."

    But the head coach emphasized that a balance is achievable; that younger players at key positions can still be given a chance to learn without slowing up practice to the point of hindering the team's progress.

    "By and large, we're going at a fast pace," Stewart said. "We're moving. They need to know that we play Mountaineer football, and it's very, very fast."

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