That may include cornerback Brandon Hogan, who was held out of last Saturday’s 31-17 win over Maryland after being suspended by Stewart following an arrest for DUI less than two weeks ago.
Stewart said Hogan would practice with his West Virginia teammates Tuesday and through the rest of the week. He also said the senior would definitely be part of the squad that travels to Baton Rouge for the game.
As to whether that translates to time on the field, Stewart said that determination would not be made until Saturday.
“I’ll watch him in practice to see how he goes,” said the third-year head coach. “I’m not trying to make light of it, but it’s an evaluation. I don’t know that he’ll play this week and I don’t know that he won’t play. If he is to play this week, he’ll have earned the right to play according to my standards and my standards alone.”
Hogan’s return could bolster the No. 22 Mountaineers’ pass defense, which gave up touchdown passes of 60 and 80 yards to Maryland in his absence last Saturday.
Stewart emphasized that the senior from Manassas, Va., is going through a University-standard disciplinary process as overseen by the school’s student judicial affairs committee. Beyond that, the head coach said Hogan endured a difficult week in the days immediately following his arrest, as he was kept “busy” according to Stewart with extra work that served as a punishment.
“You don’t want to know what he had to do last week,” Stewart said. “That’s not good for common knowledge, what I had him go through. But he got through it and he didn’t complain.
“Brandon is being handled as I would handle any of my youngsters. I’ve got 125 children here. Some people out there try to tell me how to do things, and they have one, two or three kids and can’t handle them. I’ve got 125 I’m trying to judge. They’re each and all different. They each and all come from different backgrounds, and they each and all have different scenarios.”
Beyond that, WVU (3-0) may also regain the services of linebacker Pat Lazear, who has been held out of action since being inadvertently “leg-whipped” in preseason practice by safety Robert Sands.
Stewart said the senior middle linebacker “ran hard” on Sunday and worked on his ability to make cuts on Monday despite the lingering pain from the bone bruise he sustained. But even if Lazear is able to play on Saturday night, it will be in a limited role because, according to the head coach, “he is not in good shape.”
“I’m not a surgeon, but I think if that wouldn’t have been a Patrick Lazear, and I’m very serious, that leg-whip that day from Robert Sands spinning around and missing a tackle, that may have ruined a young man’s career,” Stewart said. “Pat Lazear is an absolute bull of a man. His joints are so well put together. A normal guy, I don’t think, could have made it. I mean that.”
While Hogan and Lazear may return this weekend, Stewart’s squad likely will be without the services of offensive lineman Josh Jenkins.
The junior left guard underwent an arthroscopic procedure on a knee Tuesday morning to repair what Stewart called a “very, very minor snipping of a part.”
“It was a very, very clean and successful repair,” said the Mountaineer head coach, who noted he would be going to visit with Jenkins, who was still “groggy” after the surgery, shortly after his Tuesday afternoon press conference.
Stewart said the program would hold off on making an official determination on Jenkins’ status for this week until the team releases its weekly injury report to the Big East Conference on Thursday.
PREPARING FOR LSU:
In terms of this week’s opponent, Stewart raved about the play of the Tigers’ star cornerback and kick returner Patrick Peterson.
Peterson was a second-team All-America as a sophomore a season ago and is considered by many to be the top cornerback in college football. His athleticism also makes him a devastating weapon in special teams, where Peterson is averaging 31.7 yards per kickoff return and 23.9 yards per punt return.
“Can you imagine that, how many yards that is per game? He’s great,” Stewart said. “The guy is great. He probably should be up for the Heisman. The guy is the best DB in the country.”
Stewart emphasized that did not mean the Mountaineer offense, which has found success through the air in the first three games of the season, plans to get gun-shy at Tiger Stadium.
Indeed, the head coach said quarterback Geno Smith will certainly have to take shots at receivers being covered by the talented junior.
“You’ve got to go after him. Heck yeah,” Stewart said. “It’s game four, and I’m telling you, we’re going to do what we do. Hopefully we’ll do it to the best of our ability. But we’re going to do the same thing we do in every game.”
As for the environment in Baton Rouge, where West Virginia will almost certainly play in front of the largest crowd it has faced since a 1991 game at Penn State, Stewart said his team looked forward to the challenge.
That includes trying to deal with 92,400 screaming LSU fans. The head coach was coy when asked if anything different would be done in practice to try to simulate the noise the offense might face this weekend.
“We may have a guitar picker up there or something this afternoon,” Stewart said.
“It’s going to be fun. I’m excited that we have a chance to go in and play [there]. It’s going to be the Saturday night game. That’s great. That’s why you come to places like West Virginia. That’s why you go to places like LSU. You want to play primetime football. I can’t wait.”