MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The purpose of spring football practice is pretty clear. It's the practicality that's debatable.
Consider West Virginia's 15 practices in 2009, a period that ended with a pedestrian Gold-Blue Game that was more an experience for the fans than learning experience for the players.
Jock Sanders, who challenged the school's single-season record for receptions, was suspended from football activities and didn't participate. In Sanders' place, the Wes Lyons slot experiment was a success, but he caught 20 passes and no touchdowns in the regular season.
Running back Jordan Roberts, the 2007 Kennedy Award winner from Scott High School who everyone was writing about after the spring game, never carried the ball in the regular season and has since transferred to Division II Charleston. Noel Devine, who briefly pursued the Heisman Trophy, was lightly used in the spring to preserve him for more important matters.
Robert Sands moved around in the defensive backfield and didn't spend much time at free safety, the very position he played to all-conference status during the season.
Geno Smith, who'll probably be WVU's opening-day quarterback, was still in high school and didn't participate - and he probably won't do a whole lot this time, either, as he recovers from a broken foot.
Yet the Mountaineers will again give it a go, beginning with today's workout at Mountaineer Field. Modest and grounded goals figure to increase in scope as the team approaches the April 30 spring game, a Friday night affair Coach Bill Stewart hopes adds a little "pizzazz" to the event.
"I don't care if you have 12-0 talent, I really don't, because if you have 6-6 leadership that's probably what your team will be," said Stewart, entering his third season with a record of 19-8. "Maybe you get lucky and win one to get to 7-5. Our entire operation in 2010 and soon in 2011, 2012 and 2013, will be based on that simple fact. Do we have the right chemistry? The right leadership? The right role models who do what they're supposed to do?"
Stewart finally has abundant experience after relying on a number of freshmen and sophomores his first two seasons. The offense returns four starters on the line as well as a starting tight end, running back, fullback and receivers at two of the four positions.