MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University football coach Bill Stewart and select players discuss the Mountaineers' preparations on Tuesday in advance of the team's trip to Orlando, Fla., to face NC State in the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl:
HEAD COACH BILL STEWART
Opening Statement We had a heck of a practice. We got most of our work done. We’ll do more special teams work tomorrow. We competed against each other today as good as we have since we began bowl preparation. We had really good work out there today. We had guys flying around. These guys are getting ready to face the (NC State) Wolfpack.
We have a challenge ahead of us. We’ll be ready to go out there and represent the University in the finest manner that we can.
On outside distractions heading into the Champs Sports Bowl I really haven’t seen any distractions, and I can honestly say that with great pride. Young people are resilient, and they follow the lead of their head coach, the coaching staff and the seniors.
I can honestly tell you that there has not been one distraction that I’ve seen. We’ve worked hard, and we’ve worked fast. We’ve practiced very, very well. I’m really pleased with that. I compliment the Mountaineer football team and the way they’ve been working. Work’s been normal.
On the similarities between preparing for this bowl and the 2008 Fiesta Bowl
In all four of my bowls, these guys have been Mountaineers – they just work. They work very hard. I’m very pleased with how they’ve worked and appreciate the workman-like manner in which our guys have attacked this new challenge.
Practices have been very good. They have been sharp and physical. Some of the practices have been rambunctious, in particular with the linemen. Practice has been spirited. We’ve gotten a lot accomplished.
Tomorrow will be our sixth practice. We’re going to hit our special teams and polish our team work. Then we’ll pack everything up and head to Orlando on Dec. 23.
On his bowl pregame speech
Every game I’ve given a pregame speech, and I don’t see much difference between them. At the moment, this will be a new opponent. Be it a bowl game, our rival Pitt or whomever, each and every outing is different and hinges on our theme.
Our theme is very simple – we’re champions. These guys are proud to be the BIG EAST champions, and at the end of the day, the banner in the indoor practice facility will say “2010 BIG EAST Champs” and it will either have a 10-3/5-2 next to it, or 9-4/5-2. That’s our goal. That’s what our seniors, down to the freshman class, have been working so diligently toward and preparing so well for.
My speech will be a theme – I want to finish, and I want these seniors to go out winners. We’ve got a BIG EAST ring, and now I want a bowl victory. I know these seniors want that very badly, and I know this whole football program, this University and the state would also like to see that happen.
On semester academic grades
Grades are coming in, and there could be a couple guys affected. I’ll know more about that in a bit. We’ll have a final report on that maybe by tomorrow. We’ll coach the guys that are with us.
On Brandon Hogan
It just kills me, not near as bad as it kills him. Brandon Hogan played with a bicep injury, one in which many wouldn’t have played with – that’s how tough the kid is. I was holding out hope that he would be ready to play in this football game, for his sake and for the seniors’ sake. He’s such an important cog on this defense.
With (Brandon) out on the corner, it enables us to do things defensively we can’t do other times. Will we blitz more to help the corners? Maybe. Will we play more 40 or swat? I just don’t know until we get the game going. Whoever is out there is going to have to cover some good receivers with a quarterback that is going to be pitching that ball around.
On the recent coaching changes
That was addressed last week. I’ve taken my marching orders, and we’re going to go finish this thing this year. We’ll talk about the 2011 season when it is upon us. I don’t want to get our guys sidetracked. It is what it is. We’ll prepare for this bowl as best we can, and after that we’ll prepare for the future. I see a very exciting 2011 season, and I mean that.
Before we talk about 2011, I need to focus on 2010. How do we finish? That’s what I’ve asked the team. How will you be remembered? That’s the most important thing to this football team right now – we want to finish.
On offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen’s bowl preparation
(Mullen’s been preparing) very professionally, as all of the staff has been. I couldn’t be more proud of this coaching staff, and I couldn’t be more proud of these players who have gone out in a typical West Virginia workman-like fashion and just prepared. We have prepared, and we hope that preparation will lead us to victory. That is why we are practicing so hard. They (the football team) have been an absolute joy.
On the preparation of Brodrick Jenkins and Pat Miller I see guys who go out and work very hard. I think David Lockwood does such a great job with them.
We’re not only going to use the 3-3-5 stack, but we’re also going to sprinkle in our SWAT-40 package.
I would like to think, unless the Wolfpack has really changed, that they will be play in a workman-like fashion. They have thrown 500 times with Russell Wilson. That’s a lot of footballs being thrown. He’s completed 291 (passes) and has 14 picks. Some of those were tips. What I see is an opportunity for our defense to meet a challenge. We are going to be up against one heck of a quarterback with a great line. I like the running back, though there isn’t one superstar. There are just three guys that run the ball really well.
When you put up the points they’ve put up and you put up 4,800 yards – it’s an explosive machine. We’ll it be the machine we’ve seen on film against Florida State? I don’t know. Will it be the machine we’ve seen beat UNC four-straight years? I don’t know.
You take that offense – it’s going to be very challenging for whoever faces it. That’s why we’re going to give them an assortment (of defenses). They aren’t going to see 11 guys line-up in the same thing every down. We can’t do that. They’ll pick us apart.
On Bruce Irvin’s potential against a pass-heavy offense
Bruce will play. Our defense is going to play fast. If we play like we did for the most part of the year, and don’t play on our heels, I won’t worry about our defense. We have to take the fight to them (NC State). They are going to make first downs, and they may even score some touchdowns. We just have to hold them to less than what we score.
On the possibility of Robert Sands leaving for the NFL Robert spoke to me one time. We bring in the guys that are eligible (for the NFL Draft) and give them a packet. We’ve done that every year I’ve been here. I want to do what’s right as the CEO of this program. If a young man has an opportunity, then I’m all for it.
I tell them to come to me; I will not go to them. I did remind him that he and his mother told me in his home that his education was very important to them. I talked to him about his degree.
If they seek advice, I give them advice.
On tomorrow’s press conference with Dana Holgorsen, Director of Athletics Oliver Luck and Bill Stewart and the possibility of team distractions
I don’t think (it will cause distractions). Everyone wants some answers, and I’m all in. I think we should get everything out in the open, and I’m good to go for tomorrow.
On detractors and the effect they have on families
(Our coaches) are professional men. I know it’s tough, and they’ve done a great job coaching here, and I’m very proud of what they’ve done and what they’re doing now.
On play-calling in the bowl game It’s football. I’m still who I am. I’m a football coach and I love this football team, this University and this state. I’m trying to keep everybody focused on this football game, and everything else can be talked about on Jan. 1. That, to me, is the way you do it.
If I become distracted, then I’m not doing my job as a football coach. I’m doing that to the best of my ability, and I think that’s all anyone can ask me to do.
We’re focused and close to being ready. We have gotten a lot of work done here. I’m so proud of how these Mountaineers have worked and the way our coaches have coached. I’m proud of the way things are moving along right now.
On keeping the team focused throughout the last portion of the season
I coached every game, whether it was the last one, the middle ones or the ones at the beginning. I was very proud of our team’s finish. I’m proud of the way the Mountaineers played – we played hard and good. I thought we played Mountaineer football.
I think my November and December records are pretty good. I feel very good. It’s just work as is.
On stepping down following the bowl game
I haven’t heard that. I will be the football coach in 2011. Those are my marching orders, and I’m in on that and ready to go. After this bowl, I will then begin preparing for 2011. We have to finish recruiting very hard, and we have to get our offseason program in gear. I’m excited about that – our offseason is going to be great.
On the WVU head coaching position being his last coaching job I wish I had a crystal ball. I really do. After the 2011 season, wherever the good Lord takes me is where I’ll be. I’ve moved my bride many times before.
Coaching is a nomad business. I’ve been around. Every job I’ve ever taken I have viewed as an advancement and good for me.
When my son Blaine came around, I had to change priorities. My son is the most important thing in my life right now, and then comes Mountaineer football. After I know how the 2011 season turns out, I’ll decide what to do. (Blaine’s well-being) weighs heavy on my heart. I would not want to be moving my junior or senior year (of high school).
Again, I don’t have a crystal ball. We’ll just have to wait. I’m just looking forward to after this bowl and how exciting it’s going to be here in 2011. I do believe it’s going to be very exciting.
On what he’s said to recruits
I’ve answered every question to the best of my ability and as honestly as I could. I’ve been as truthful as I could about any situation – being away from home, adjusting to Morgantown and what college life and football are like.
I do a pretty good job in the homes. I think our recruiting classes have shown that. We didn’t have a Top 25 class until I became the head coach. Since, we’ve been 24th and 19th. They (recruits and their families) love our graduation rate. They love what we’re doing with the program. The home visits that I have been involved with thus far have been very good.
DEFENSIVE END BRUCE IRVIN
On NC State quarterback Russell Wilson
You just have to stay deep and contain him. He’s the biggest offensive threat. I think if we contain him, we’ll be alright.
On the challenge of facing a quarterback that can run on the outside or up the middle
I think we play better against mobile quarterbacks. You have to play assignment football. That’s the same thing I said the week we played USF and (quarterback) BJ Daniels. We played our assignments that week and everyone did what he had to do. No one tried to do someone else’s job. We had a good result because of that.
You always look back on stuff that worked in a game, and everyone played his assignment against USF. BJ didn’t hurt us as much this year as he did last year.
WIDE RECEIVER TAVON AUSTIN
On the offense’s improvement
We’re playing good right now. We’re just coming together at the right time.
On the bowl game experience
I was at last year’s bowl, but only played a couple of plays. Now, I just have to do what I’ve done the whole year and hopefully I’ll make a couple of plays.
On playing in Orlando
I know Disney World is down there! That’s one thing I know. We’re just going to go down there and go to Universal Studies, and that will be fun before the game.
SAFETY ROBERT SANDS
On the defense’s production
We put in a lot of work this season, during the weeks and even in the preseason. Our coaches do a tremendous job. They threw in more and more stuff each week because we have shown we have a handle on things. We got a chance to do a lot of different things this year and other teams couldn’t get a feel for what we were doing.
On the team’s preparation
There have been distractions, but I don’t think they were distractions that we couldn’t handle. We have a bunch of upperclassmen that are getting ready to graduate that were in a similar situation a few years ago. They have helped and prepared the underclassmen like me to get ready for some of the changes that are getting ready to take place. They have helped us stay focused on the task at hand, which is beating NC State in the bowl game. We were ready for this practice, we came out prepared and everyone did what he needed to do.
On the challenge the Russell Wilson and the Wolfpack offense present
I’m excited. I won’t be bored this game. They throw the ball an awful lot, but on the other hand they are going to go against one of our strengths, which is our secondary. We have a heck of a secondary. Our secondary will put pressure on them. I’m ready for the challenge, and I know the rest of my ballhogs are ready for the challenge as well.