The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

April 7, 2011

Mountaineers get physical

Stewart: Intensity there but work on fundamentals needed

MORGANTOWN — On the fourth day of spring practice, West Virginia University spring practice finally began.

Until Wednesday, practice was more like the senior prom than football. They wore helmets and shorts for two practices, helmets and shoulder pads during the third.

They were polite, getting-to-know-you sessions not to be confused in any way with football.

“It was like playing basketball without the basketball,” said defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel.

The rules changed Wednesday.

“Practice No. 4 was very physical,” head coach Bill Stewart said. “I liked our intensity.”

Intensity comes naturally the first time you are allowed to bang heads and hit people. In the life of a football player, the first day of pads isn’t far off from the first game that matters because running drills gets old fast.

“We’re flying around and we’re hitting people, but we aren’t doing the little things well,” Stewart said. “This is pads now. I thought there was good effort, but you have to work on the fundamentals. I see too many guys on the ground and too many guys, offensively, not finishing the day’s job. I don’t see a lot of great second effort by our offense.”

Defensively there are problems, too.

“I don’t think we’re tackling very well, but we’re hitting,” Stewart said. “I don’t see a lot of wrapping up by our defense.”

All of that will come.

The offense has to be somewhat hesitant because the formations, language and schemes are new, which means players have to think rather than just act. It takes more than three days to become familiar with and accomplished in an offense.

And defensively there are seven starters gone, including a couple of beefy spots in the middle of the defensive line.

“Yeah, it’s a little concerning,” said Casteel of being much smaller up front. “There is no question we don’t have the 300-pound kid up front, but we’ve been like that before so hopefully we can find ways (to compensate). We don’t have to tee off until September, so these guys still have a lot of eating to do between now and September.”

It could be of the seven players who are gone from the defense, the one who will be missed the most is nose guard Chris Neild, an experienced, strong 300-pounder who was also a great team leader. He is almost certain to wind up as a force in the NFL.

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