Stew's Views: Fall Camp Day Nine

While freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson's status is still not entirely determined, WVU head coach Bill Stewart termed the Texas native "a defection" as of the first day of the second week of the Mountaineers' preseason training camp.

Stewart refused to directly confirm that Johnson did not practice with the team on Monday, dodging a reporter's question by only saying the signal-caller was "in the building."

That was in line with an incident earlier Monday, in which Johnson posted on his Facebook page that he was "officially a baylor bear [sic] now." He later added, in reference to the West Virginia coaching staff, "Yep..they usin [sic] me to just run the ball I'm a rb [sic]..lies."

Those posts disappeared Monday afternoon and were briefly replaced by a retraction of sorts: "I'm lyin yal [sic] lol haha..why yal [sic] worried bout [sic] me."

But that statement soon vanished as well, leaving onlookers to wonder whether the freshman from Silsbee High in the Lone Star State was pulling a prank on anxious fans or serious about his desire to leave the Mountaineer program.

Indications from Stewart are that the latter might be more true, but the head coach reiterated on several occasions that Johnson's issues stem from being "homesick" rather than any problem with how he is being used within the WVU offense.

"I'll let you know in a day or two what's going on," Stewart told reporters Monday evening. "We don't need to sensationalize anything. The young man is homesick. If he stays, I'll let you know. You'll see him. If he goes, you'll be the first to know. I won't hide a thing from you -- never have and never will. But we'll just let Jeremy Johnson and his team, his teammates, work out his homesickness."

As for what West Virginia players and coaches might do to help a player like Johnson decide to stay in town?

"You hug them up, and you tell them to remember all the great reasons that you came, how special Morgantown is," Stewart said. "Once classes begin, things get better. Mom and Dad will be able to come up and see them.

"And your teammates -- how many times did Jock [Sanders] and Noel [Devine] want to go home? Forty years ago this fall, I came over here as a walk-on linebacker. I wanted to go home many, many nights, but I stuck it out. I was [from a town] 65 miles from here. Remember that."

While Johnson's "defection" (in Stewart's words) took one player out of action Monday, the Mountaineers finally had another talented freshman at training camp. Offensive lineman Quinton Spain reported to practice with his teammates after a delay in a ruling on his academic eligibility from the NCAA.

That delay may hurt Spain's chances to contribute as a true freshman -- an already tall task for most players, especially at a position like offensive line -- but Stewart said the big-bodied lineman would get a chance to show what skills he has in practices.

"We never want to harness anyone or handicap them, but it will be a little difficult [for Spain to play in the] first ball game," Stewart said. "Maybe by midseason, in the Big East -- whatever [position coach] David [Johnson] thinks. If he's coming along, we'll put him in there. He's just a wet-behind-the-ears youngster."

In accordance with the NCAA's rules on "acclimatization" the Petersburg, Va., native was in a helmet and no other protective equipment, according to Stewart -- even though the rest of the team was in full pads.

Stewart said Spain would again be in a helmet and shorts Tuesday, would begin two days in shoulder pads and a helmet Wednesday and would then be allowed to suit up in full gear. Even without the added bulk of the equipment, the head coach said Spain stands out easily because of his 6-foot-6, 330-pound frame.

"He looked like he was in full gear just because he's a big, big man," the third-year head coach said. "And he's a nice lad. We're glad he's here. Eligibility Center -- that's all been worked out. He's in."

The same could not be said yet for freshman receiver Dante Chambers, who still awaits word from the NCAA before he is allowed to report to Morgantown.


  • It was a busy day in terms of personnel moves for the Mountaineers.

    Besides the possibility of Johnson leaving the program only a week into his first training camp and the addition of Spain, there was a surprising note along the offensive line.

    Stewart said redshirt freshman Cole Bowers had taken reps with the first-team offense at right guard Monday, supplanting veteran Eric Jobe at that position at least for the day.

    "Competition breeds success. Competition is a wonderful thing," Stewart said. "Cole received some snaps with the 1s a little bit, and that's neat. We just moved him up there ahead of Jobey. And that's not a slam at [Jobe]. We just want to see what other guys can do."

    The Cabell Midland alumnus had been impressing position coach Dave Johnson in drills, and Johnson wanted to see how Bowers would react to being placed with a different group of line-mates (and being put up against the best the WVU defense has to offer).

    There were no immediate indications as to whether the move would be a permanent one.

  • Several Mountaineers were still limited or held out of practice due to injuries Monday, and Stewart seemed to send a warning out to those players that they risk losing spots at the top of the depth chart as some of the reserves continue to impress.

    "[Safety] Sidney Glover is working, but did not get any hits," Stewart said. "Trippe Hale was going to jump into some special teams, but I said, ‘No. Not until you get that blue jersey.' But they've returned and are running. Bradley Starks is in a green jersey and can't have full contact. I just know Stedman Bailey is looking pretty good."

    "Stedman Bailey is just playing lights-out. We've got some guys in green shirts and red shirts that had better pick it up, because there's going to be some guys like Stedman Bailey maybe take some jobs. That's good to see and it's what competition is about."

  • As for the action on the field today, Stewart said practice featured a scrimmage with only underclassmen on the field, allowing juniors and seniors to help coach the younger Mountaineers.

    The head coach singled out cornerback Brandon Hogan for making a "tremendous" interception in drills and again complemented safety Eain Smith for his play, saying only a drop prevented Smith from what would have been a 90-yard interception return for a touchdown.

    Stewart was pleased with the work of power backs Shawne Alston and Ryan Clarke during one period in practice, but said that the defense rose to the occasion and "came on like gangbusters." He said nose guard Chris Neild -- who did not play in Saturday's scrimmage because "we know what he can do" according to Stewart -- and the rest of the defensive line was "a wrecking crew."

    In terms of special teams work, WVU worked on kickoff coverage in a physical manner, taking advantage of a practice in full pads to do so. Corey Smith, battling for jobs as the starter to punt and kick off, was praised for his efforts in drills.

    The Mountaineers will practice twice tomorrow, starting the first session at 8:30 a.m. local time and hitting the field again at 3:00 p.m.

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