Stew's Views: Fall Camp Day 12

For the fourth and final time in their preseason training camp, the Mountaineers practiced twice Thursday. The morning session gave starting quarterback Geno Smith a rare opportunity to rest, as he watched the two freshmen fighting for the backup job work with the first team offense.

The purpose for doing so was two-fold, according to WVU head coach Bill Stewart.

First, it afforded Smith the chance to learn by watching drills from a different perspective.

"I know that by playing, you learn," Stewart said. "But certainly, by teaching, you learn. To sit back there with the coaches and watch two young quarterbacks do our pass skeleton and two-minute drill, it was good for Geno to see it from an observer's point of view."

Second, it gave both Barry Brunetti and Jeremy Johnson the chance to show what they could do with the starting offense -- and for their teammates to get used to a different quarterback behind center.

"We wanted both freshmen to work with the first team today, because you just never know if there will be an injury that occurs," said the third-year Mountaineer coach. "You hate to say that, but if it happens, I want those linemen having heard their voices in a two-minute situation, so that's why we did what we did."

While camp is nearing a conclusion and players may be starting to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, the intensity of practices has not ratcheted down, according to Stewart.

That, he said, is because players are truly focused on improving -- not just getting through camp.

"Are you in a survivor mode?" he asked rhetorically. "That's the deal. Do you just mark the day off? If you're not going out there every single time as a coach to coach better or teach better, and certainly as a player to play better and get better, then you're in some kind of camp survivor mode, and that's not good. And we've not had that. We've had earnest, eager youngsters participating, and it's been fun.

"I think the intensity has been great."


  • Just a day after a host of West Virginia players were in green or red jerseys due to injury, the head coach said almost everyone was participating in practice at least in some way.

    Wide receiver Bradley Starks and defensive lineman Jorge Wright continued to be held out of drills and wore the red tops that reflected that fact.

    "They're the only two left in red. Everyone else practiced," Stewart said. "I think [linebacker] J.T. [Thomas] was still in green and maybe [defensive lineman] Josh Taylor.

    "[Cornerback] Keith Tandy is in blue and practiced. [Safety] Sidney Glover is in blue and practiced. I don't think [defensive back] Trippe [Hale] is out of green."

  • Stewart was guarded in response to a question about whether or not the battles for the starting punting and kickoff jobs had been determined, but implied that those situations are clearing themselves up.

    The head coach said Corey Smith "has the lead on John Howard" in the competition to kick off. Stewart then said Smith and fifth-year senior Gregg Pugnetti are "neck-and-neck" for the punting duties.

    The latter battle is so close, in fact, that Stewart implied he may try both Pugnetti and Smith early in the season, changing the punter with each attempt, to see who forges ahead.

    "Both are doing well," Stewart said. "We chart that every day -- every snap time, every operation time, every hang time. We have a book and we do it every day. Everything is on the watch and we accumulate that, and they're very much neck and neck.

    "Both are capable, and both should be given a chance, so we'll see."

    If there was any lingering doubt about who would have the duties of PAT/field goal kicker, Stewart ended that by saying Tyler Bitancurt has that job won "hands down."

  • WVU has only a Friday afternoon practice separating it from a Saturday scrimmage that ends fall camp.

    But that scrimmage is only the beginning of a critical evaluation period for coaches, who will try to determine who should make the two-deep roster when the season begins Sept. 4 against Coastal Carolina.

    "Saturday and Sunday is big," Stewart said. "We'll meet as a staff and we'll devour the film. We don't just watch it. We go over it and over it and we talk and put on pass film we keep every practice. ‘Has he improved? Is he a good learner? Can he handle this?'

    "So we'll put the film back on from early practice and watch the same drills. We spend a lot of time [on that] because the biggest and most important thing our coaches can do is bring to me the 11 best. ‘Coach, here's who I think should start.' Then my role as a head coach is to play the best 11.

    "The best 11 are not necessarily the 11 best. In other words, if I've got a talented guy that's a great athlete, he's one of the 11 that someone says, ‘He should play.' But he continually makes mistakes. He's not there when he's supposed to be. So he's not in my best 11. We're going to play the best 11-man unit we can play."

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