By JONATHAN GREENE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
On its first day of spring practice, West Virginia moved a step in the right direction, according to head coach Bill Stewart.
“I just told the team and the staff that all teams that are good have great chemistry, great leadership and great work ethic,” Stewart said. “Today was the first step in that direction. I thought our effort and enthusiasm were good. They had a lot of bounce in their step.”
Stewart and the Mountaineers were happy to get out on the field Wednesday after a long winter following their Champ Sports Bowl loss to North Carolina State and departure of Noel Devine, Jock Sanders and seven starters on offense.
“It was a good first day and a good start,” Stewart said. “On day one with shorts and jerseys you really can’t tell much. I just liked our enthusiasm and the way we gelled. It has been a long winter, but we need to get out and practice.
“We got a lot of plays and reps in today on both sides of the ball. I liked the way our defense ran on and off the field. You could see the enthusiasm. I shouldn’t have to coach effort and motivate people. You do in a certain way, but we are looking for self-motivators and guys that work for it. I like what I saw today.”
Stewart particularly liked what he saw from starting quarterback Geno Smith who is coming off foot surgery in January.
“He had a good day,” Stewart said. “I saw him burst off on a couple play fakes to his left and to his right.”
Smith is competing during the spring with early enrollees, freshmen Brian Athey and Paul Millard.
“They put the ball on the money a few times,” Stewart said. “They made a couple of late throws, but that is going to happen. I am sure their heads are spinning, but I am sure they will get better. They are two big, tall young men that put the ball out there.”
Outside of Smith, Stewart enjoyed standout days on offense by Brad Starks and Ivan McCartney “who caught the ball well” and particularly Tyler Urban.
“He is a big slot receiver,” Stewart said of the 6-foot-5, 249-pound Urban. “I see him in the backfield in that three-back set, and we will still use him at tight end. Tyler Urban could really excel in this offense. As you saw today, he caught the ball really well.”
On the defensive side, redshirt-senior defensive back Brantwon Bowser had two picks while senior linebacker Najee Good had another. Senior defensive end Bruce Irvin showed promise as Stewart said “I don’t think we blocked Bruce all day.”
The Mountaineers’ next practice is scheduled for Friday afternoon.
Virginia Tech started their spring practice Wednesday night while Marshall began Tuesday.
Virginia, which started spring drills on March 15, will have their Orange-Blue spring game on Saturday at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville.
— Contact Jonathan Greene