Like many college football fans, I am tired of all the bickering and reporting on the departure of Rich Rodriguez and his settlement with WVU. It is beyond time to be focused on the more important matter of getting ready for the 2008 season.
That is why I am writing this article about the new era of college football in Morgantown, WV. With the switch to Bill Stewart, many WVU fans are actually pretty optimistic about the team’s future.
The Mountaineers now have a head coach that possesses not only a great attitude but also a loyal heart.
Stewart, quietly (for some reason it hasn’t been covered very much), put together a solid coaching staff with some exceptional recruiters. A lot of naysayers about Stewart’s hire forget that WVU’s second choice, Doc Holiday is also on staff making it almost a two for one.
Stewart is not a micro manager but rather a guy who is comfortable being the face of the program and a motivator to his team while allowing his capable assistants the freedom to coach the players. He is not an egomaniac or an overbearing leader.
How will his philosophy compare to the past regime?
“If you tuned into West Virginia’s two defeats …versus South Florida (who has beaten WVU two years in a row with great defense) and Pittsburgh, you would have shook your head saying “What’s all the fuss about?” As a former offensive coordinator myself, I must admit that one of the hardest things to do is get away from something that is so successful so often. Is it pride, ego, stubbornness, or the fear of not enough preparation or more importantly game exposure to ‘Plan B’ that prevents coaches from shifting gears when a defense hasn’t stopped you all day?”—from spreadoffense.com.
This little snippet, in my opinion sums up the Mountaineers losses to USF and PITT last season. Stubbornness. I mean if you are getting stuffed every play because the defense is loading the box, make some adjustments for goodness sake!
Fortunately, I think Bill Stewart is open-minded enough to make in-game adjustments as needed and his staff will begin each game with a more balanced attack plan. He is the opposite of stubborn, yet still holds his team responsible for execution at a high level.
With the hiring of Jeff Mullen as the new offensive coordinator, it is clear that loading the box will no longer be an option for defenses facing the Mountaineers. Motion and vertical passing should open up a whole new dimension of explosiveness.
I recently came across footage of Stewart’s pregame speech before the Mountaineers convincing win over highly favored Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl on YouTube. I was pleased and amazed at his fiery, passionate imploring of the team.
He was definitely much different then the “aw shucks” coach we have seen in interviews. Not different in a way that would bring his genuineness into question but rather in a way that showed that he is more than just an emotional hire.
He is a great motivator, and he is an excited and energetic leader. Some things we can be sure of with Coach Stewart, he loves West Virginia and the football team, his players love him, and he is concerned about developing quality citizens and leaders.
To most West Virginians, this means an awful lot. Winning is the icing on the cake.
What does all this mean for WVU’s future? Well in the immediacy, WVU is returning one of the best Big East RBs in Devine and the best QB in White. Bill Stewart has loads of other talent coming back including the entire offensive line.
While it is true that Casteel has some hard work ahead with the defense, I still truly believe they will be once again competing at a championship level and be in the national spot light.
After all, Casteel has proven he can do a lot with a little in the past. Stewart’s staff has also signed some powerful players to start building for the future, including one Coley White (Pat’s brother for those who were unaware, do you feel the rest of the Big East cringing?).
The 2009 class has already seen several top 150 prospects verbally commit, including an Elite 11 quarterback in Tajh Boyd and his friend Logan Heastie, a top WR.
I am sure it will be tough to maintain the level of success in the coming years, but those guys sure will help! Simply put, it continues to be a great time to be a Mountaineer.
Addition (08-01-08) This is what Jim Leavitt, USF's head coach had to say about Stewart: "He's got a great reputation, because he is who he is. He's a down-to-earth, good person, loves the game...The people who wonder on how he'll be (compared) with Rich are nuts. This guy's probably better than Rodriguez. I'm worried about him. We beat Rodriguez. We haven't gotten this guy. This guy worries me. I wish Rich would have stayed. But he didn't, so we'll have to go play Michigan now."