MORGANTOWN — The Bill Stewart Era gets under way Friday when the New Martinsville native leads West Virginia University’s football team into spring drills..
Stewart, who led West Virginia University to a stunning 48-28 upset of No. 3 Oklahoma in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl as the Mountaineers’ interim head coach, will run his first football camp as the head coach at WVU.
And that’s just fine with the members of his staff.
“Too little credit has been given to coach Stewart for the outstanding job he did as the interim coach for the bowl game and his putting together of this staff,” new associate head coach John “Doc” Holliday explained. “I have had an opportunity to work on some very successful programs and the staff he has assembled here compares very well with those other staffs.”
A feeling echoed by new offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen.
“It’s a lot of fun going into a staff meeting every day and looking down at the staff Bill has brought to Morgantown,” said Mullen, who coached at Wake Forest last season.
From top to bottom WVU’s newest coaches appear to be an upgrade on the ones who joined former coach Rich Rodriguez at the University of Michigan.
“From my standpoint this will be my most important spring,” said Holliday. “Fortunately, on the side of the football I will work (offense), we have a lot of veterans returning which should make the transition a smooth one.”
Not so, however, for defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, one of two assistants who elected to stay in Morgantown following WVU’s third consecutive January bowl victory.
“From a defensive standpoint this is going to be an exciting spring for us,” said Casteel, who was selected as the Defensive Coordinator of the Year for his work last fall. “We (the coaches) are in the process of meshing ideas.”
Many of those will have to revolve around the replacement of several key defensive members, including linemen Keilein Dykes and Johnny Dingle and backs Ryan Mundy and Eric Wicks.
“We’ve lost a ton of talent and that is going to be a challenge for this spring,” added Casteel. “Fortunately, we’ve got a lot of kids that we think can play. We’ve just got to find the right spot to put them in.”
That work begins the first day of spring drills and will conclude with the annual Gold/Blue Game at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 19.
Stewart and his staff will conduct 14 practice sessions this spring. A controlled scrimmage will be conducted on Saturday, April 12. Weekday practices will begin around 4 p.m. and conclude at approximately 6. Practices will be conducted either in the stadium or at the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility.
Admission for the Gold/Blue game is $5 and, as always, all proceeds go to the WVU Children’s Hospital.