MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia football head coach Dana Holgorsen addressed the media Friday afternoon, previewing the spring season.
Opening statement ...
Want to get started just to catch everybody up with what our team has been up to.
It’s winter workouts. Strength and conditioning has been what their role has been about, as well as academics.
They come back from the holidays, and coaches are out on the road recruiting, so we don’t have a whole lot of contact with them for about three weeks in January. We turn them over to the strength and conditioning group, who has been doing a great job.
(Director, Strength and Conditioning) Mike (Joseph) and his staff all do a phenomenal job in the basement, utilizing the new facility, which has been great for us. The space up in the indoor practice facility, from an offseason point of view, has been tremendous.
We’ve had six good weeks of work. Obviously, the goal at this point in time is for these guys to get bigger, faster, stronger and healthy. I think we’ve accomplished that up to this point. We have one more week of that. In addition to that, we’ve had nine early morning sessions, which is a whole lot of fun for the coaching staff. We get the kids up early, kick them around a little bit, yell at them, scream at them, encourage them, motivate them and challenge them in every way possible.
We’ve had a lot of good work in the mornings, and we have a couple more of those sessions next week, as well.
We’ve been trying to get more into the football aspect of for the last three weeks. We’ve had about six sessions in the afternoon where we’re able to show film to them and get a little head start for spring ball.
We’ll have a couple more of those sessions next week. That will lead us into spring football. We will start Sunday, March 2 - that’s when we’re scheduled to start. This time of year, you’re curious if the weather is going to cooperate. It doesn’t like it’s going to, if the last couple of months has been any indication.
Sunday, March 2, that will be open to the media for the first 30 minutes. We will try to get three practices non-padded, helmets only and a lot of teaching each of those three days. We won’t care if the weather cooperates or not. We will have a schedule and stick to it.
That will lead us into spring break. Everyone will be gone for a week. When we come back, we’ll have four weeks - that’s the meat of the schedule.
We’ll have 12 practices during that time, all of which will be padded. Obviously, that will be the majority of the work that we’ll get into. The exact days may change, depending on the weather.
We’ve set four Saturday practices. There has been a little bit of talk on this. On Saturday, March 22, we’ll be going to Wheeling to hold a practice. On Saturday, March 29, we’ll have a practice in Morgantown, and on Saturday, April 5, we’ll practice down in Charleston.
Then, on Saturday, April 12, we will have the spring game. All four of those practices will be open to the public. We want all of Mountaineer Nation to be able to come and watch the Mountaineers to see what we’re putting out there and see what the product is. I think everyone is going to be pleasantly surprised with what the product is going to be.
All the schemes are going to be relatively similar to what they were last year on all three sides of the ball. You always have to make some changes. You always have to evaluate what you did and what needs to be done better. There will be differences on all three sides of the ball, but for the most part, it will look the same. Hopefully the outcomes will be a little bit better.
Based on having 70 scholarships guys right now, healthy and ready to roll for spring practice, we’re looking forward to being able to get out there and perform.
We wanted all of Mountaineer Nation to be able to get out there. I want you to come and support the team. Show your support to us, and we’ll show you all of the hard work we’ve been putting in for 2014, and hopefully we’ll make you guys proud of us.
On the offensive staff this season
Not many changes this season. Shannon (Dawson) will still be the offensive coordinator and work with the quarterbacks. Lonnie (Galloway) will still be working with the receivers. JaJuan Seider still will be working with the running backs, fullbacks, tight ends and h-backs like he did a year ago. Ron Crook will still be working with the offensive line. We should show more continuity this season. Last year we worked with a lot of first and second-year players. This year we will be working with more experienced guys and will be a different unit because of it. We also have a staff that is coming back that will be more integrated and will work well together.
On the roster this season
Moving on to the more important aspect of the team this year, the players. We have 70 scholarship guys on the roster right now. That’s probably 15 to 20 more than what we’ve had in the past going into the spring. We’re excited by the amount of kids that we have to work with. The experience that we have coming back makes it a lot easier to line up when we have experience. You can have a functional spring practice when you can have two and three-deep at each position. Especially two and three-deep levels that all have experience.
On spring captains
We did have players and coaches vote for spring captains. These will not carry over into the fall but for the spring we’ve named five guys who will be spring captains. Michael Molinari, who is doing a phenomenal job and is a workout warrior. You usually don’t think of a specialist as a workout warrior. But the special teams’ guys that we have are workout warriors. Michael (Molinari) is a guy that does everything. He’s got a 4.0 and is a kickoff guy. He’s going to try and do all three duties this season and try to beat out everyone else. Quinton Spain and Cody Clay will be offensive captains, while Karl Joseph and Nick Kwiatkoski will be spring captains on the defensive side to make up the five spring captains.
On the defensive roster this season
Not much will change this season. We are a three-down front. You can do multiple things with that. With defensive personnel, what stands out to me is the depth that we have at linebacker. We have returning starters in Brandon Golson, Isaiah Bruce, Nick Kwiatkoski, Jared Barber, Wes Tonkery, Jewone Snow, Shaq Petteway. You have a collection of guys who have played and you have young guys who you look at and they are real players. Edward Muldrow is a long-armed guy and has attacked this offseason really well. Al-Rasheed Benton is a big guy who can fit in well. You have young guys like Hodari Christian and (Isaac) McDonald who provide a bunch of depth. We are three to four-deep at those spots so it’ll be interesting to see what we can do with a bunch of guys that have experience. We look forward to getting those guys out there and playing. For D-line, we should have some pretty good battles for the three spots on the line. Kyle Rose has taken a leadership role and done a great job with that. Dontrill Hyman is really working hard and we are looking forward to seeing those guys with pads on. They need to be pushed by Eric Kinsey and Noble Nwachukwu. With those guys, explosiveness is something that you want, consistency is what you need to see. At nose, Christian Brown is doing great. Darrien Howard is finally getting an offseason. He’s finally getting an offseason because he didn’t show up here until mid-August. Getting him an offseason is important. Brandon Jackson has been moved to nose tackle. He hasn’t been very productive here. We asked him if he could hold a gap. He is big powerful kid so hopefully we can see him in pads. At safety, Karl Joseph has probably played more games as a junior than anyone else. KJ Dillon has fully recovered from the Texas game. He was in the hospital for severe dehydration and was weighing about 179 at that point. He’s back around 208 now. He looks good and is moving well. Those two guys bring a tremendous amount of experience for us there. Then you have Ricky Rumph, Jarrod Harper, Jeremy Tyler and Malik Greaves who just need to get out there and play ball. At corner, Ishmael Banks is returning for his senior year and has played a lot of football. With Darryl Worley as a true freshman he would walk in and you would think he was a senior. He’s a guy who looks good and has been having a great offseason. When you look at the roster you try and find guys that will try and beat them out for those positions, it might be someone we have or it might be someone that we have coming in. Keishawn Richardson has great footwork and Terrell Chestnut will be healthy and ready to go.
On the specialists this season
With the specialists, they are all doing well. John DePalma, Josh Lambert and Nick O’Toole are doing well. They have experience and want to improve their craft, and Michael Molinari says if they don’t then he’ll beat them out. So there will be an interesting battle there.
On the offensive roster this season
On offense this offseason, we mentioned Clint Trickett is not going to be able to go through the spring practice. Skyler Howard has been doing a great job this offseason. Logan Moore has been moved up to full time at quarterback to have a third arm this spring. We’ve gone through a spring with two arms before, and it isn’t fun. Logan is working really hard, he is studying what is going on, and feels like he will have a chance to compete. Paul Millard is taking a ton of reps and has put himself in a position where he knows what he’s doing and has taken a ton of reps. We have three guys this offseason who are capable of running the offense. Our running back has a lot of experience and a lot of depth. Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood and Dustin Garrison have all played a lot of ball. Andrew Buie is back and is working hard. Rushel Shell looks great, in shape, and we are anxious to see what he can do in pads. Overall we have five guys who have proven that they can play at the Division I level. At tight end, Cody Clay has improved his body, he just needs to work on his route-running. Garrett Hope and Ellijah Wellman are guys who are able to bring some nastiness and toughness, so we are going to line them up and let them play ball. With the receivers, it’s nice to see two and three-deep at each position. We are returning three starters, four if you count Jordan Thompson. Daikiel Shorts, Mario Alford and Kevin White are guys who are returning starters and gained a lot of experience last year. As opposed to last year when we had to teach these guys what to do, we can use this spring to teach them how to get better at it. Last but not least, with offensive line it kind of starts with the inside guys. We might have one of the better guard combinations in the country with Quinton Spain coming back as a senior and four-year starter with a ton of experience. Mark Glowinski also has a ton of experience being a two-year starter out of junior college. Both are fifth-year seniors and both have a year of experience under their belt with Ron Crook. They can be a tremendous force on the inside. Tyler Orlosky is doing great and has some presence to him. He snaps the ball really well which is nice to see. We have depth there too with Stone Underwood, Grant Lingafelter and Tony Matteo. Probably the biggest question on our offense, besides quarterback, is who our tackles will be. We lost two seniors last year. Marquise Lucas will be moved to tackle to see if he can handle anything on the edge Adam Pankey, Marcell Lazard, Sylvester Townes, a junior college kid coming, are all big bodies that are long, tall and have good wing spans. We need to see which guys develop and which ones don't. Mike Calicchio is a fifth year guy that is enormous. We will see if he can potentially get himself to where he can help us as well. That is a kind of state of the union as far as where we are at. You can maybe get into more specifics with the position coaches around the room and see exactly where their position group is.
Plans for time spent with players with new rules
That does not kick in until June 1. It will look a lot like it did during winter conditioning right now. We will have them for eight hours. It will mean less vacation for these coaches, which is the one down side they will tell you. The NCAA said and defined when recruits can and cannot come on campus. When we come back in May, we will be able to spend four or five weeks toward the end of May and June doing what we are doing now. We will be able to go down in the weight room with them, spend time with them, sit in a room with them and coach and watch spring cut ups. That will be really beneficial to the new guys joining the team in May, June and July. If you remember, not to go backwards, so many new guys joined our team in August, July and June that we could not spend any time with until August 1. At least this time we can sit in a room with them, be around them and talk to them. It allows us to challenge them and see what they are all about.
On open spot on coaching staff
There are a lot of things that go into it. We have been interviewing some guys, and have some leads so we will get something done here early next week. We are looking for the best available. We have been coaching our guys here for about three weeks on what we will be doing on all three sides of the ball, and we are comfortable with our schemes and who is coaching what.
On troubles on offense last season
In trying to find reasons why we were not successful, I will attribute that not to defenses catching on but what we are doing offensively. It is about execution. We were not very good offensively at key times. Is that because they are doing different things on third down or creating different blitzes and coverages? I don't think so. I think we knew what they were doing, and we just had a hard time executing for whatever reason.
On the 10-second snap rule
I don't view it as a big deal. I went slower last year than I have in the last 10 years, because we were not very good at executing. How many times did we snap the ball with the play clock in the 30's? I would challenge you that it wasn't very many. I don't think that it will change it at all. I don't agree with it, and I don't think it is a good rule.
On turnover on the coaching staff
It is both a good thing and a bad thing to be honest with you. If you look at the guys that have left, they have left for a variety of reasons and for good jobs, because we have had success. Continuity is something that (Director of Athletics) Oliver Luck and I have talked a lot about, and we are doing a variety of things to make sure we have continuity for this year and into the future. Change can be good. Some of the things that we have changed here I think have changed for the better.
On sending a message for a winning season
Everybody wants to win and nobody wants to win more than me. This coaching staff, this team and Mountaineer nation, I understand how much everybody wants to win. I understand how much it means to everybody. There were some disappointing losses last year, but I can promise you one thing, we are going to work harder than we did last year and will have more continuity, more experience, and don't forget, we are playing in one of the most exciting conferences in all of college football. There were some pretty exciting games out there on Mountaineer Field last season that we came up a couple points short. That is one reason why we are going to open up these practices in the spring. I encourage everybody to come out to those and see what we are doing. I tell you, our guys are working hard, and they are excited about spring ball and excited about 2014. We are working as hard as we can possibly work. I think the product is going to be improved and be something you can be proud of. There are some exciting guys that have played a lot of ball that, if I had nothing to do on a Saturday, I would go watch because there are going to be some exciting games out there on Mountaineer field.
On having open practices
I just wanted to do it. I came up with the idea and no one was telling me to do it. I talked to Alex (Hammond) and there were some compliance issues that we had to work with. Hopefully the weather cooperates. It is weather depending. I do not think anyone wants to sit in five degree weather with rain, sleet and snow. Just like the spring game is, we just wanted to open these up and let everyone watch and show people across the state that we will be a product out there that they can be proud of.
On sophomore quarterback Skyler Howard
He can work out well. He asks a lot of questions in the meeting room. He comes in and meets with (assistant coach offensive coordinator) Shannon (Dawson) all the time. Nothing is more important to him than being a quarterback, which I view as being very important. I haven't seen him in a football setting yet. The workout setting is good though. The players seem to gravitate toward him, and he works out better than most of our skill guys. He is a football guy that asks a lot of questions and football is important to him.
On playing against man coverage
We faced it probably a little bit more last year than we have in the past. We will probably face it a bit more next year. It depends on how good (senior wide receiver) Mario Alford can get at being a fade guy and how good (senior wide receiver) Kevin White can be at jump balls. That discourages a lot of man coverage when you have guys that can beat you deep at the drop of a hat. Oklahoma did it exclusively, and Texas did it quite a bit. Kansas also did it quite a bit for a variety of reasons. We can control that though.
On running back competition in the spring
We will see who the better one is. It is called competition. Competition allows you to see who is better, and when you don't have that competition, like we did not have last spring, guys gets complacent and don't try extra hard. The more competition we can create at any position, the better. Last year, we used quite a bit of running backs. Whether you can use one, two or three backs, you can lineup in a bunch of different places.
On difficult upcoming non-conference schedule
I am the one that made the schedule, and I am the one that approved it. Speaking of scheduling, we are trying to schedule as many high-profiled games as we can. That is going to be the future of college football. You need to play high-profiled games, whether neutral or home-and-home, against other power five conference opponents. (Director of Athletics) Oliver Luck had that foresight, and I think it was a great idea to start the year off in that high profile situation against Alabama. Will it be challenging? Absolutely it will be challenging, but the Big 12 will be challenging as well. We wanted to be relevant and be in a situation where we are playing in the highest level possible.
Defensive Coordinator Tony Gibson
On being named defensive coordinator
It’s a dream come true for me to be in my home state coaching the Mountaineers with the role I’m going to be in now. Everybody talks about how it came quick and this and that, but this is my 20th year as a college football coach. Everyone tells me I’m young, but this is my 13th year at the Division I level. How much longer do you have to go to get your opportunity? The think I’m most thankful for is Dana giving me the opportunity. For someone to have that much confidence in me after one year of working with me, he’s going to get the best I have to offer.
On the continuity among the staff
(Cornerbacks coach) Brian Mitchell and I worked so closely together with the defensive backs. He’s a great football coach. He’s been a coordinator before. Do I have all the answers? Heck no. I have guys to lean on who’s been there and done that. (Special Teams Coordinator) Joe DeForest has been in this a long time and coached a lot of great guys, plus he’s been a coordinator. A guy like Dana who is so passionate about West Virginia, is going to work and address those guys. Surrounding yourself with the best available coaches you can get makes everyone better.
Offensive Coordinator Shannon Dawson
On if it is more important to develop depth or find starters during the spring
Ultimately, you have to find the best 11 guys. It’s most important to find who your starters are. Find the best players. Spring is all about competition. You can be more physical in the spring, so you can a lot more game situations where it is live. In the fall, there aren’t many live practices. So it’s hard to make a true evaluation unless you put them under the fire and under the heat like you can in the spring. Spring is a lot more live and a lot more competition. You can find a lot more competition.
On finding the starting quarterback
Well, we have one guy not going through spring. If one guy takes it and runs with it this spring, he’s going to have the upper hand. Whenever Clint is ready to compete, we’re going to let him compete. We’re probably not going to name a starter until later on. This spring is going to be a huge advantage for those guys who are practicing, obviously.
On sophomore quarterback Skyler Howard
I put the plan in front of Dana of what I thought we needed to do, and he agreed. So I went out and tried to find the best midterm guy who can competition to that room that I could find. The biggest thing, throughout his background, he’s got a good story. He’s had to fight, and he’s had to fight hard. He’s been an undersized quarterback his whole life.