Stew's Views: Fall Camp Day Seven

With the first full-scale scrimmage of preseason training camp just a day away, the WVU football team was chomping at the bit, ready for some live competition during Friday's practice, according to the team's head coach.

After nearly a full week of practices that have featured only a bit of full-scale competition near the end of drills that are otherwise focused on individual, position-by-position improvement, the Mountaineers were apparently rather vocal with Bill Stewart about their desire to put on the pads and go against each other in game situations.

"From what I heard today out there, they're excited," said the third-year head coach.

"They really wanted to get after it, and we kind of backed up a little bit at the end because it was going well. And I reward them. When it goes well, I let them take a blow. Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day, and they're looking forward to having fun."

Of course, that "fun" comes along a healthy dose of pressure to perform for several players hoping to either move up the depth chart or win closely-fought positional battles.

Reserve quarterbacks Barry Brunetti and Jeremy Johnson, both true freshmen, will each get the chance to try to prove to Stewart and company that they should be the one to back up presumptive starter Geno Smith.

Stewart said Smith will take all of the snaps with the first-team offense in the scrimmage Saturday, while Brunetti and Johnson will alternate on a series-by-series basis with the second-teamers.

It could be a significant day for both, since offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jeff Mullen said earlier this week that he would begin to zero in on who the backup should be towards the end of the first week of drills.

"I don't want to say huge, because it's just the first scrimmage of a freshman's college career, but it's big," Stewart said. "They know. You don't fool young people. We don't try to fool them. We tell them the truth.

"Tomorrow is going to be big for a lot of people. But again, we'll have another week. And then another week. And then another week. And then we'll be [at the start of the season]."

The head coach said the two freshmen quarterbacks have not separated themselves at all -- "not one bit" -- through this first week of training camp. He also said there is no firm plan about whether to redshirt either of the two quarterbacks once the battle for the backup slot is decided.

As for what would make Stewart happy at the end of Saturday's scrimmage?

"I don't know if a head coach is ever happy in the season, but what will make me happy is if I continue to see the leadership out of the older guys," he said. "That's what makes me happy. I love our chemistry right now. It's not supposed to be fun. It's just supposed to be a brotherhood. And I like what I see.

"But what would really make me happy is if our young freshman quarterbacks don't go in there and [get] frazzled. I don't like big plays, guys. I don't want to see [cornerback] Brodrick Jenkins get beat deep. I don't want to see [cornerback] Ishmael Banks get beat deep."

Before West Virginia players could even begin to worry about the scrimmage, they had to get through another practice Friday.

That agenda included an inside rushing drill, pass skeleton work in the red zone, practice on overtime situations (with the offense down by seven and eight points at different times) and kickoff coverage.

"We had a heck of a practice today in terms of intensity," Stewart said.

"Now, we're making a lot of mistakes. And that's okay to a certain degree because we're giving our freshman a really big look early. After tomorrow, that's going to subside a bit, because we're going to start formulating the plan and that type of thing. But I'm really excited about the intensity. I'm not overly pleased with the mental part of the game, but that's part of right now, week one."

Stewart said he was pleased with Corey Smith's distance and height on his kickoffs, but that the Alabama transfer had the help of kicking with the wind -- an advantage the head coach said he would take away the next time kickoffs are rehearsed.

It was, all in all, another positive day in Stewart's eyes.

"It was a really good day," he said. "The Mountaineers are working hard. They're working in a very enthusiastic manner."

That enthusiasm is only likely to carry over into Saturday's scrimmage.

"There's going to be a lot of excitement," Stewart said. "The guys need to be in the arena. They need to learn how to play Mountaineer football in the arena. And they need to learn how to compete."

RIFLE REPORTS:

  • A few Mountaineers are dealing with minor injuries which held them out of action Friday and could put their status for Saturday's scrimmage in doubt.

    Stewart said cornerback Keith Tandy and safety Sidney Glover both are dealing with slight hamstring issues, while wide receiver Bradley Starks is dealing with problems in his hip and groin. The head coach emphasized that the injuries to all three were minor.

    Linebacker J.T. Thomas was still in a green, limited participation jersey Friday, despite asking head trainer Dave Kerns for a normal blue one. Despite that, Stewart said the senior was able to participate in all drills, as he had on Thursday.

  • While nothing is settled in terms of the depth chart yet, Stewart indicated that there is a leader in the battle for the starting right tackle spot.

    "Jeff Braun has the upper hand at this point," he said. "He's getting better, but has a way to go. That right tackle spot, as I've said, is not as solid as the other four positions. But it's gaining. We're gaining."

    In other offensive line news, Stewart said Joey Madsen would most likely spend the entirety of the season at center and Eric Jobe would stick to his spot as the right guard.

    Last year, the two were used interchangeably from week to week, as coaches liked the way Madsen played at center when the defense had a nose guard over the ball and preferred Jobe at center when he did not have an opponent directly across from him.

  • Stewart has been guarded in his praise of the newcomers thus far in camp, but clearly likes what he sees out of true freshman wide receiver Ivan McCartney. In fact, "Sticks" may be getting playing time early this season.

    "He has shown me an innate ability to go get the ball," the head coach said. "He has strong hands, a big frame, a big body.

    "He has a chance to be a real good one down the road if he continues to progress. I see him as a guy we're going to get out there early and see what he can do. He can really stretch the field. He really has shown us a lot. Again, his head is spinning, but much talent."


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