Stew's Views: Starting Spring

Bill Stewart

The WVU football team began its third set of spring drills under head coach Bill Stewart on Tuesday afternoon with the help of one unexpected player, and without two others many had hoped would be in attendance.

Rising sophomore quarterback Geno Smith was on the field and participated in several drills while still recovering from a broken fifth metatarsal. He donned a green jersey to signify he would be unable to participate in certain drills -- and, indeed, he was held out of some action.

But the fact that Smith, who wore tennis shoes instead of cleats, was on the field and throwing at all could be an encouraging sign for coaches, who had worried the injury would significantly limit his chance to develop this spring.

"He looked pretty good to me," said Stewart, after watching Smith throw in situations where he wasn't asked to move. "But we don't know (how much more he will be able to do in spring)."

While Smith's effort pleased his head coach, his displeasure with the decisions of Logan Heastie and Deon Long was apparent.

Heastie redshirted as a true freshman wide receiver last year, while Long had just arrived in Morgantown for the spring semester after spending time at Hargrave Military Academy.

Both, apparently, had their struggles during the winter workout period. Neither was listed on the official spring roster handed out by Mike Montoro, the athletic department's Director of Football Communications, and neither showed up Tuesday.

"Division I football isn't for everybody," said Stewart, who confessed he was "chomping at the bit" to discuss the situation.

"Sometimes 6 a.m. workouts shy people away. Sometimes workouts in the weight room shy people away. I only care about those that are here. Those that have left, I won't have one ounce of worry about anyone that's not here. We're going to play with who we've got."

And while he had previously expressed that Heastie and Long would be welcomed back to the program if they so choose, the head coach said that both would need to put in a lot of work if they ever hoped to see the field for West Virginia.

"They'd be welcomed back on the stadium steps and pushing 45 pound plates all spring," said Stewart. "Then they could come out next August. But they've got to know there's no exceptions. In our vocabulary, that word doesn't exist. I don't care who you are or what you play."

"That's why we're good. That's why we play tough. That's why we play fast."

And those qualities -- and some intangibles -- were what the Mountaineer coaching staff worked on developing during the first afternoon of spring drills.

"Today's practice was fast and they looked like they were enthused," said Stewart. "There are all kinds of ingredients in every recipe. Our recipe today was pride, passion and discipline. You can't have anything without those ingredients. But the main ingredient is still lacking."

"That is leadership. We need leadership in the worst way. We need seniors to step forward. They are doing a pretty good job. There just isn't very many of them. You don't have to be a senior to lead."

"They are all good, but nothing near great. You just take our men's and women's basketball teams and you will see what chemistry and leadership can do."

And so players had their first opportunity of the season to step up and show their head coach something. Several players did so.

"I thought Coley White threw the ball better than I anticipated," said Stewart of the rising junior quarterback, who hoped to move to wide receiver before being tasked with taking most of the reps this spring as Smith heals. "That was good. Coley competed."

"I thought Geno threw some good balls. Catching the ball, who caught my eye was Will Johnson. We need to get the ball to him. Tavon (Austin) caught some nice passes, and Noel (Devine) ran the ball pretty good."

Indeed, Devine showed what he could do quickly Tuesday, scampering for what would have been a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of 11-on-11 drills, which concluded the practice.

The senior running back also tried to step up into one of those leadership positions, barking out instructions to some of his teammates occasionally throughout the day.

"I thought he did a nice job out there," said Stewart. "He was really good. He was fun. It was fun to see him take charge."

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