MORGANTOWN - In some ways, Bill Stewart hasn't changed since becoming West Virginia University's head football coach last Jan. 3.
He's still a very fine gentleman who knows his football, with a variety of experience, and insists that he's a realist - not an optimist or a pessimist.
But the New Martinsville native will tell you that there are distinct differences in himself since his three-year stint as head coach at Virginia Military Institute in 1994-95-96
"I was so blessed and grateful to be the head coach at VMI," he readily admitted the other day, despite his teams' combined 8-25 record. "They were very good for me down there in Lexington, Va.
"But I've matured. I'm a whole lot more patient now. The situation was a lot different because we didn't have the caliber of team like we do here. I've mellowed a little bit, and I think there are different ways to go about doing things now.
"I'm not nearly as vocal or demanding as I used to be, and I'm in a different mode now. VMI, let me tell you from my heart, made me a better man and it made me a better coach."
Stewart said he brought the good things from there when he came to WVU as an assistant coach eight years ago, and he learned from the things he didn't do well while with the Keydets. He firmly believes that job not only made him a better coach but a better manager of people.
"I've learned to delegate, and I've learned to trust coaches," he continued. "I learned that I'm not the smartest coach in the cookie jar, if you know what I mean. Hopefully, it has made me a better man today and, hopefully, a better coach."
So far, so good. The Mountaineer faithful couldn't be happier.
Stewart takes a 1-0 record into the Aug. 30 season's opener against Villanova at Mountaineer Field/Milan Puskar Stadium. As interim coach, he directed last year's team to the greatest victory in school history.
At least that's what many people regard the 48-28 upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2, 2008. The Sooners were ranked No. 3 and rated by some observers as the nation's best team going in.
For West Virginia to be successful this fall, Stewart believes Heisman hopeful Patrick White is going to require major contributions from tailback Noel Devine and wide receiver/tailback Jock Sanders.
There are others who must also help, of course, such as the all-veteran offensive line, returning pass-catchers, and the rebuilt defense. But Stewart said, "It's really simple: No. 5 (White), No. 7 (Devine) and No. 9 (Sanders) all have to touch the football.
"Then you throw in (tight end/FB) Will Johnson, (wide receivers) Alric Arnett and Tito Gonzales and Dorrell Jalloh and we can be very diverse. We will make people say 'wow.' We will push the ball in every way.
"No. 5 and No. 7 cannot be the only two to carry the ball. It's been proved. We need have to get the ball in someone's hands in crucial situations besides No. 5 and No. 7."
Motion and movement, among other tweaks, brought by offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen are designed to achieve that as the season progresses.
I was saddened to learn that former WVU tailback King Harvey died of cancer in the Pittsburgh area about a week ago. He was just 46 years old.
The Dublin, Va., native was a standout under retired coach Don Nehlen and lettered in 1981-82-83-84. He wasn't very big in size, but he certainly was in heart and effort.
Harvey returned kicks and also shared the running with other tailbacks.