MORGANTOWN - West Virginia University football coach Bill Stewart praised his defense following Saturday's second scrimmage of the spring.
"I liked our defensive tenacity," Stewart said. "They got after it. I was really proud of our first-team defense."
Stewart said he was "excited" about the play of safeties Robert Sands and Sidney Glover, calling them the best pair since the days of Ryan Mundy and Eric Wicks.
"There is more experience at the safety position this year," said Sands. "It is a lot of hard work and dedication on our part. We watch extra film and put in the extra hours."
Stewart also praised the work of his up-front defenders in Saturday's scrimmage.
"I think Chris Neild is a force, and Julian Miller bashed his helmet (because) he was playing so hard," Stewart said.
On the offensive side of the ball, Stewart said quarterback Geno Smith looked as good in drills as any quarterback in years.
"Geno went down that field, and he was hot," Stewart said. "He was hitting the target, his reads were good and his timing was good."
Stewart said seniors-to-be Noel Devine and Jock Sanders had good days.
"There has been a lot of improvement between last year's day one to now and this year's day one to now," Devine said. "Since I have been here in the spring, this has been the best spring so far. I am glad I made the decision to come back. I'm sitting here smiling, and I love everything about it. I just had to trust in God and believe that everything happens for a reason. I am ready to get back to work and go out with a bang in my senior season."
When that departure comes, Tavon Austin will be waiting in the wings to step in. This year, however, the sophomore-to-be is playing on the wings.
"I think it speaks volumes of what type of young man he is," Stewart said. "He caught a touchdown pass (Friday), but he had a couple of plays where he didn't go full speed. He sought me out and told me he would never loaf on the field again. He is out there at receiver, but he is a future running back who is going to take over for Noel. Then he and Ryan Clarke will be the 1-2 punch like we have now."
WVU returns to the practice field at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, and it has another scrimmage scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Spring drills conclude April 30 with the annual Gold/Blue Game.
Festivities are set to begin at 7 p.m., with an old timers game featuring former Mountaineer players. The intrasquad scrimmage under the lights will conclude WVU's spring football drills. The offense will be wearing gold uniforms, and the defense will don the blue uniforms.
Fans are encouraged to attend the Mountaineer Fan Festival in the stadium lot adjacent to the Ronald McDonald House from 5:30 p.m. 6:30 p.m., featuring inflatable games for kids and an autograph session with select former Mountaineer football players.
Tickets are available for $5 each. They can be purchased at the Milan Puskar Stadium gate on game day or in advance the week of the game at the Mountaineer Ticket Office located in the WVU Coliseum.
WVU students will be admitted free with a valid ID. Stadium parking information will be released at a later date.
Once again this year, there will not be an autograph session following the game, and fans will not be permitted on the field. Mountaineer Football will conduct its annual Fan Day in August with details being released later this summer.
Proceeds from the Gold-Blue Game again will benefit WVU Children's Hospital. The Mountaineers have donated $597,032 to Children's Hospital during the past 25 years.