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Stewart Go deep receivers

by Greg Talkington

SPORTS WRITER

MORGANTOWN -- Bill Stewart's football career has come full circle.

The new West Virginia University quarterbacks coach's gridiron journey began as a player at Magnolia High School in New Martinsville and has taken him to such places as the Naval Academy, North Carolina, Arizona State and Canada.

He's also coached at his collegiate alma mater, Fairmont State.

But after 17 years of being former FSC coach Dave Ritchie's top assistant in the Canadian Football League, Stewart is glad to be back in the Mountain State.

"It's just wonderful to be back in the hills of West Virginia," Stewart said. "I hated to leave Dave Ritchie, but this is home, and I'm tickled to be back here."

Stewart's offensive philosophy is simple -- do whatever your players do best.

At Montreal, he was instrumental in developing the attack that produced the CFL's first-ever 2,000-yard rusher in Mike Pringle.

At Winnipeg, he helped with an offense that was one-back and no-back and produced the league's MVP in quarterback Kerwin Bell.

"My basic background is smashmouth football," Stewart said. "But when I saw what a great quarterback Kerwin Bell was, I said we've got to take advantage of his abilities."

Stewart's ability to digest vast differences in offensive philosophies made him a good fit for WVU.

"West Virginia football, Don Nehlen football has always been smashmouth, tailback oriented," Stewart said. "That's not going to change.

"But the one-back offense that WVU has gone to over the past few years allows for greater flexibility in the use of your talent."

Combining the two philosophies also gives an offense more flexibility in the red zone.

"If you can't run, especially in the red zone, you're not going to win championships," Stewart said. "That's an attitude.

"Of course, if you establish the tailback, you can vary it up with your bootlegs, your floods, and sprintouts so they can't get a bead on you."

As far as some changes in WVU's offense for 2000, Stewart says the Mountaineers will attack opposing defenses with deeper throws.

"We've got to get more vertical with our passing game," Stewart said. "We've got to take advantage of that 18-to-25 yard window.

"West Virginia wasn't very efficient in pickup the third-and-longs last year. Throwing horizontally meant that one or two tackles had to be broken for a first down to be picked up. I think the progression of reads we're giving quarterbacks -- deep first, middle second and short last - will help remedy that problem somewhat."

Speaking of quarterbacks, Stewart likes what he's seen of Brad Lewis and Scott McBrien so far.

"Brad is so far ahead of where a backup quarterback should be," Stewart said. "He's got a great handle on what we're asking him to do in our offense.

"Scott also got some time on the practice field last year and appears to have a lot of athleticism."

Stewart also likes their competitiveness.

"I'm very pleased with their knowledge of the game, their work ethic and am thrilled with the way they compete with each other and against each other," Stewart said. "They help each other and pull for each other, yet they're trying their best to win the job and that's what you need."

West Virginia ended the third week of spring drills today with a full-scale scrimmage.

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