By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
August 31, 2009
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – No Big East football teams in the preseason Top 25, no problem - yet, says Pitt’s Dave Wannstedt. The Pitt coach prefers to wait until the end of the season when the dust settles before judging how good the conference is.
||Coach Bill Stewart has been pleased with the way Jarrett Brown has protected the football so far this fall.
WVU Photographic Services/Dan Friend photo
On the other hand, West Virginia’s Bill Stewart is a big promoter of Big East football, armed with facts, figures and statistics at the ready whenever the league’s honor is challenged.
“We’ve won over 75 percent of our games against outside competition over the last three years – that’s the first fact,” Stewart said Monday morning. “The second fact is we’re 12-4 in bowls in the last 16 bowls. We’ve won three of our last four BCS bowls – that’s a fact.
“We’ve won 75 percent of the BCS games, 75 percent of the bowl games against outside competition, many of the league champs,” Stewart said. “I’m proud to be in the Big East, honored to coach in the Big East and our players – every time we go outside the league - we carry our Big East banner with pride.”
Stewart believes the perception of the Big East sometimes gets misconstrued because of its basketball heritage.
“I don’t know why we get hammered,” Stewart said. “I guess everyone thinks that we’re just a basketball conference and that’s just baloney. Every Big East team that plays outside the conference, I’m pulling for and I don’t care who likes it.”
What makes Big East football so appealing, in Stewart’s eyes, is the physical brand of play from its teams.
“Our league is the black and blue league,” Stewart said. “We’re tough and we’re physical, and you better be tough and physical when you play in the Big East.”
Stewart thought his team accomplished what it set out to do during fall training camp.
“We tried to be a little bit more physical,” said Stewart. “We have a young offensive line, which everyone knows, and I thought we’d try to toughen them up as best as we can and we did. We hit a lot, we ran a lot and I’m sure the fellas are glad now that camp is over.”
Now that the offensive line shuffling is complete, Stewart is hopeful the group can be productive this season, although he is not overly concerned about them jelling as a unit right away.
“Should they be jelling?” No, they shouldn’t be jelling. I’m not gonna have them jell until we get the best five. If (quarterback) Jarrett Brown doesn’t practice well, then the No. 2 quarterback will play. If (safety) Roberts Sands doesn’t practice well then the No. 2 safety will play. That’s how we do things here,” Stewart said. “The same goes for Scooter Berry.
“Everyone is kind of looking at the offensive line but they’ll be fine,” Stewart added.
Stewart coached three years at VMI, recruits heavily in Virginia, and prefers having at least one Virginia school on West Virginia’s schedule each year. This year Liberty fits the bill.
“I’m partial to the state of Virginia,” Stewart said. “I like Virginia schools because we recruit there and I like playing those type of schools. We have Norfolk coming in – William & Mary,” he said. “That’s just how we pick them.”
Stewart is impressed with Liberty’s size and speed.
“We had a meeting yesterday – we’re off today because it’s a Monday class day – and we showed the guys some special teams film from Liberty and their jaws dropped,” Stewart said. “They were third in the nation in punt return and 12th in kickoff return. You better have your Ts crossed and your Is dotted.”
Stewart admitted that one of the big question marks in the opener will be how his kickers perform when the seats are full.
“We just haven’t done it yet in front of anyone in the arena,” Stewart explained. “I’d say Tyler Bitancurt will do the kicking, Josh Lider will do the kickoffs and Scott Kozlowski will do the punting. The snapping will be done by Cody Nutter and a little bit of Jeremy Kash, and Kash will do the holding.”
Stew said the team came out of fall camp relatively healthy. He is also pleased with the progress quarterback Jarrett Brown made running the offense.
“He was sharp and he didn’t turn the ball over – it’s very tough not to do that against our defense,” he said. “He’s doing a well-rounded job of managing the game.”