Stew's Views: Fall Camp Day Six

The sunshine barely beat the Mountaineer football team to the field Thursday morning, as an 8:25 a.m. workout was the starting point for the squad's first day of two-a-day practices.

After that first session, conducted with players wearing helmets and shorts, WVU head coach Bill Stewart spoke about another day of "situational" drills in the first week of preseason training camp.

While practice was closed to the media for the first time this week, Stewart did run down some of the highlights of the morning session.

He said the team went into "skelly compete" towards the end of the morning -- a 7-on-7, offense-versus-defense drill that plays out like a normal game. Plays are not scripted. Instead, players must look to the sidelines and pick up signals from coaches.

"There were some good bright spots," Stewart said. "[Safety] Eain Smith continues to stand out. I really like what I saw out of him. I thought Brandon Hogan worked very well at corner, and it was good to see Brandon out there fighting and competing. [Safety] Robert Sands looked extremely well, and [linebacker] J.T. Thomas was back flying around pretty good, and that was nice."

The latter point was a relief to the the Mountaineer coaches and players alike. Thomas had been held out of drills for the past two days while dealing with pain in his neck similar to that which limited the senior this spring.

An MRI yesterday did not show any major issues, and Thomas was cleared to return to practice. He again wore a green jersey, signaling his participation would be limited due to the injury, but was a part of most (if not all) of the action and said Thursday he was "fine."

Stewart said Stedman Bailey had a touchdown grab in two-minute drill work, and said the redshirt freshman receiver "keeps getting our attention, which is really neat." Apparently, Bailey is not the only underclassman at wide receiver impressing the coaches.

"Our young receivers seem to be getting closer," Stewart said. "It was practice number six, so things got a little bit better."

With that said, practice number seven was soon to follow. West Virginia was to again take the field this afternoon, this time with players in helmets and shoulder pads.

Stewart said the agenda would include a "more intense" two-minute drill, the team's last-second field goal drill, some work on rushing between the tackles and one-on-one battles between receivers and defensive backs.

"It's just basic football -- block, tackle, run to the ball and those types of things," said the third-year head coach.


  • Stewart said there was nothing new in terms of the eligibility status of freshmen Dante Chambers and Quinton Spain. Both are still waiting on rulings from the NCAA Committee on Initial Eligibility before reporting to camp.

    The head coach said he would be checking this afternoon to see if there was any progress on those cases.

  • While Wednesday was the first day players were in full pads, a day when the raw physicality of football is on display, Stewart said he was careful about how much contact he allowed.

    "Yesterday, they hit very, very hard. I was pleased, so I cut it back," he said. "With about four minutes in the last period, I said, ‘We've had enough.'

    "You have to know [the limit] as a coach. We got down there yesterday, first day in full pads, to the 6-yard line, and our guys started to go into the jumbo [package], and I went, ‘Whoa. No, no, no.' We kicked the field goal and got out.

    "You have to build to that [kind of] hitting. It starts with that ‘victory' drill, the one-on-ones, the inside drills, then you go to team drills. We started to jump into our goal line [package] and we were not ready for that. I didn't want anybody getting hurt, so I backed it off a bit. But it was intense."

  • The head coach was asked about the differences in special teams schemes this season with new coaches assigned to different facets of that portion of the game. He said that because of recent successes, that the punting unit would remain unchanged. But other areas are getting some tweaks.

    "We went out, searched and got some new wrinkles for both the kickoff and kickoff return," he said.

    "There is a new kickoff. This afternoon, we're going to do kickoff return. Tomorrow will be full pads and we'll do kickoff. They're doing stages of drills in how to cover, close, shed the block and that type of thing on kickoff. And they've done some things in kickoff return. Now we'll put them together. It will be a hitting, very intense drill."

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