- Associated Press - Thursday, August 12, 2010

West Virginia coach Bill Stewart is plotting along the best way he knows how with NCAA rules violations hanging over his program.

With nine starters back on defense and running back Noel Devine returning behind a veteran offensive line, the Mountaineers are looking to regain Big East bragging rights after a two-year hiatus.

First, West Virginia must endure the bumps that come with breaking in yet another new starting quarterback, the third in Stewart’s three seasons as coach.

“We have a lot of potential, but we sure have a long way to go,” Stewart said.

Bumps are becoming a common theme in the Mountaineer camp with the regular season still a few weeks away.

This month, the NCAA cited West Virginia for five major and one secondary rules violations from 2005 to 2009 involving non-coaching staff working in coaching roles with players. The latter two years came under Stewart’s watch.

“That is not on our mind,” Stewart said. “This football team, led by Bill Stewart, our staff and seniors, is going to concentrate on the 2010 season with full effort. We will not talk about it anymore.”

If that wasn’t enough, some players wore lightweight shoulder pads during the first two days of practice, even though NCAA rules stipulate shoulder pads couldn’t be worn until the third day. WVU plans to self-report the violation.

It’s not the way anyone in Morgantown, W.Va., hoped the season would start, especially if Stewart wants to impress new athletic director Oliver Luck, who took over in July.

Luck pledged his full support for Stewart in the earlier NCAA probe but also indicates he wants to take time to review the entire football program.

Despite going 18-8 in two seasons, Stewart is the lowest-paid coach in the Big East. He’s entering the third year of a six-year contract signed in September 2008 that pays him $900,000 this season. Stewart has yet to receive a contract extension.

Winning would help.

West Virginia fans became spoiled with five shared or outright Big East titles under Rodriguez _ and none since he left in December 2007. Stewart’s detractors became more numerous last year when the offense struggled behind Jarrett Brown.

Now, it turns to the unknown _ quarterback Geno Smith played in five games as a freshman, completing 65 percent of his passes for 309 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He missed spring practice while recovering from a broken foot that required surgery.

“Geno is out there to prove himself,” Stewart said. “Geno Smith is every bit of a competitor that we have ever had. I believe that all quarterbacks are that type of men, but I would put him at the top of the list.”

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