Stew's Views: Fall Camp Day 11

Just as the WVU football team regained the services of a freshman who had not been practicing for the last two days, it lost another youngster when offensive lineman Marquis Wallace was held out of Wednesday's drills due to an NCAA eligibility issue.

Wallace, a native of Richmond, Va., had been a part of practice since preseason training camp started a week and a half ago. But the NCAA Eligibility Center took issue with that, and so the true freshman was not suited up for a scrimmage earlier Wednesday afternoon.

"He's a fourth-team freshman guard. And I'm not going to talk about that," said Mountaineer head coach Bill Stewart, when asked about Wallace's absence. "I want to talk about the guys that are playing."

When pressed further as to what had drawn the NCAA's ire, Stewart again refused to divulge any details.

"It's an Eligibility Center issue," he said. "I want to talk about the guys practicing. Please."

That made for an easy transition to a story that had to make the third-year West Virginia head coach a bit happier. Freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson was on the field for WVU and participated in the team's scrimmage earlier in the day.

Stewart had previously said that the Texas native was "homesick" and lashed out at those who had doubted that statement in the wake of posts on Johnson's Facebook profile that instead made it seem his frustration was with how he was being used within the Mountaineer offense.

"Our football team and staff did a nice job [convincing Johnson to stay]," said Stewart. "I hate to end a bunch of sensationalism out there, because I know it breaks peoples' hearts ... but he's back. We're happy he's back. He's a good guy."

When given the opportunity to praise the job his players and coaching staff had done in making Johnson feel more at ease with his situation in Morgantown, again, Stewart seemed to be on the offensive.

"We don't let outsiders break the family," he said. "We don't put one dime's worth into sensationalism. He's just a freshman that was homesick. I tried to say that and didn't know how to say it other than just say it. It still gets written up [differently]. Make a headline."

While the WVU "family" played a role in keeping Johnson in the fold, his real family back home in the Lone Star State that also had an impact on the process as well. Stewart praised Johnson's parents for helping show the youngster the way.

"It's a great family," Stewart said. "There is [sic] a couple things parents can give youngsters. You can give roots and give wings. Jeremy's mother gave him roots, and now she's telling him to take his wings and go, and stay up at West Virginia.

"I've had great conversations with his family, as have our other coaches. And our people at West Virginia, our players, have done a nice job."


  • As for the actual scrimmage, it was once again a largely "situational" affair, with different simulations of different field position or down-and-distance scenarios in effect.

    It started with work on goal-to-go situations, with the offense given the football on first-and-goal at the defense's 8-yard line. Then the Mountaineers worked on short-yardage situations before moving into the "free-wheeling zone" with the offense at its own 35-yard line. The scrimmage ended with two-minute drill exercises and work on two-point conversion plays.

    Stewart said safety Eain Smith had another interception (his third in scrimmages this week). Morgantown High alumnus and WVU walk-on Anthony Vecchio had another pick, and defensive end J.B. Lageman forced and recovered a fumble.

    Offensively, the head coach singled out receiver Stedman Bailey (who had a nice touchdown grab early in the scrimmage with the first-team offense), running backs Noel Devine, Daquan Hargrett and Trey Johnson and fullback Ryan Clarke for praise.

  • While there were several Mountaineer players in green or red jerseys at practice, limited or held out of action due to injury, there was one player who refused to let the green shirt keep him from participating in the scrimmage.

    Second-team defensive lineman Josh Taylor was easy to spot on the field because of his green shirt, which stood out from the blue tops worn by the rest of the defenders. He earned notice from Stewart for working through pain.

    "I said [before] I didn't like red and green jerseys, but I liked that green jersey today," the head coach said.

    "I told him I appreciated his work."

  • Stewart was asked to elaborate on his praise of Stedman Bailey, Trey Johnson and Eain Smith.

    "[Bailey] has made acrobatic catches, and Ivan McCartney has done the same thing," the head coach said. "I don't know. It must be something down there in Miramar [Fla.], something [high school coach and former Mountaineer] Damon Cogdell taught them, because they are catching that ball and doing it in an acrobatic manner."

    Trey Johnson, a true freshman, has been impressive all camp, showing a strong burst of acceleration and some nifty moves. But Stewart said it would be unwise to peg Johnson as just another speedster on a roster full of them.

    "He's probably the strongest 165 or 170 pound back I've ever seen," said Stewart. "He's wiry and he's fast, but just because you don't look big doesn't mean you're not strong. I've seen a lot of skinny boxers beat up big, muscle-bound boys. He's going to be pretty good, I think. He's got to get a bit bigger, but he's fast."

    As for Smith, his emergence could help in the defense's goal of disguising coverages because he and a few other safeties can play multiple positions so well.

    "I like Eain at free safety and Robert [Sands] at bandit," said Stewart. "Then you can play Sidney [Glover] at bandit, Robert at free safety and roll Eain down as the spur. Now they don't know where we're lining up.

    "And when you see them disguise like [safeties] Coach [Steve] Dunlap and [defensive coordinator Jeff] Casteel has them doing, it really makes trickery our forte. It's our advantage."

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