New coach Bill Stewart today closed the two-week proceedings with a 54-play scrimmage that yielded nary a touchdown by the eighth-ranked Mountaineers.
What, the self-described Mr. Rogers worry?
For one thing, he sat out offensive dynamos Noel Devine and Jock Sanders. For another, receiver Dorrell Jalloh was absent due to an infected foot and tight end/fullback/H-back Will Johnson due to a foot sprain, while receiver-quarterback Bradley Starks and backup quarterback Jarrett Brown likewise weren’t allowed to participate because of sore hamstrings. Finally, the offense worked on the passing game more than what Stewart calls its “bread and butter.”
“If we put 5 [Patrick White] and 7 [Devine] in there and just run the belly option all day, we’ll score more than one touchdown” total in two scrimmages, said Stewart, who earlier in the week invoked Fred Rogers’ name in a soliloquy about how he can be a stern coach as well. “We’ve scored a bunch all fall. Don’t worry. We’re going to dance with the girl what brung me.”
* Of Mark Rodgers’ 39 yards on four carries in the battle for backup tailback, Stewart said, “Nice to see a couple of big runs he made. We’ve got to see that. ’Cause I know what 5 can do, what 7 can do, what 9 [Sanders] can do. That’s why we threw the ball so much. I want to see what [the other guys] can do.”
* Of the 5-foot-8 Devine and Sanders missing the scrimmage, Stewart said, “Both can play. Both are good. Both are frustrated at me [for sitting them]. That’s OK. I can take those two little munchkins. Tag-team, they could take on this old boy. They’re like two midget wrestlers, anyway -- I’d knock those guys out.” Mr. Rogers was never this feisty at 56, was he? No, neighbor, he was only kidding.
* Stewart also talked about installing a new kick-return system that is the same one he used earlier this century, when the Mountaineers topped the Big East in that category. Devine and Sanders worked on kickoffs before the scrimmage, each breaking off returns that reached kicker Pat McAfee one-on-one on the far side of the 50.
* Absent Brown and Starks, the two quarterbacks remaining yesterday were the Brothers White. With Patrick and freshman Coley leading the offense, you could’ve labeled this a White-Blue scrimmage. The younger brother shows nimble feet, but the speed of the college game continues to elude him, as Stewart noted: “It’s a little fast for Coley right now.”
* A star of the scrimmage, if you cared to name one, would’ve been backup defensive end Larry Ford, a junior-college transfer who arrived last winter and worked in spring drills. Big East officials blew their whistles as soon as a defender laid a finger on Patrick White, and in that environment Ford registered a couple of sacks Stewart said, “He’s bringing some things to us. I tell you, nobody could block him today. That cat was smoking. That cat was rolling. With Scooter [Berry], Chris Neild, Zac Cooper and Pat Liebig, Larry Ford is huge for us.” Berry worked some at nose tackle in the scrimmage, and defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich expects to experiment next week in practice with a hefty front, in Berry and Neild and Liebig, along with a speed unit, with Cooper and Ford at bookends.
* Seneca Valley’s Don Barclay looks like he'll receive a large chunk of playing time, if not start, this season thanks to new offensive line coach Dave Johnson of Penn Hills and WVU. Barclay today played a series at first-team right tackle, the position previously held by Selvish Capers, whom Barclay is pushing. Barclay, who can play both tackles and some guard, seems destined for the top reserve at minimum. And Johnson wants to play younger linemen for when seniors Ryan Stanchek and Mike Dent depart after this season, meaning Seton-LaSalle’s Gino Gradkowski could see backup guard time as well.
* Classes commence Monday, so that means the end of Camp Stew-a-days and a return to the in-season regiment of a single, late-afternoon/night practice daily. This camp-ending date one year ago brought the night that cornerback Ellis Lankster and linebacker J.T. Thomas ran into legal difficulty and got suspended two games. "Stay out of the news," Stewart said he told the players, though, if memory serves, You Know Who warned the Mountaineers the same thing last August. "We've talked to them about being mature adults, not being a weak link. They're still under curfew. They'll be under curfew until I tell them they're not under curfew, which will be sometime in January."
-- Chuck Finder