DALLAS — West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen spent 15 minutes on the dais at Big 12 Media Days Tuesday morning. There will be a longer media session this afternoon, but here is the transcript from his short podium session.
THE MODERATOR: We'd like to introduce coach Dana Holgorsen from West Virginia University.
COACH HOLGORSEN: Just real briefly wanted to make reference just really excited about being a part of the Big 12 going into our third year. And, again, it just seems like yesterday that we were having press conferences and joining the Big 12. But going into year three, I think never been more excited about going into a season as we are right now. So I think our players in our locker room understand what the Big 12 is all about. They understand how challenging it is. They understand what the venues are like. They understand what the teams are like, personnel is like, coaching is like, style of play is like.
I obviously tried my hardest to be able to relay that to not only the players but the coaches and the administration and the fan base. And until we get through it for a couple of years, I knew it was going to be challenging. So with that said, I think our guys are ready to go. They're up for the challenge. We play one of the toughest if not the toughest schedule in the country.
Haven't really had to mention to our guys what the challenges are ahead of us because they know and they're working hard and they're getting themselves ready for the challenge that exists here in 2014.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. I was wondering if you could give an update on how the process is going of building depth on the defensive side of the ball. A lot of injuries on that side of the ball that year, seemed like it ran out of steam towards the end of the year?
COACH HOLGORSEN: Yeah, it did, and we need to be prepared for that to happen again this year. I can't use that as an excuse on why we didn't win a couple of the close games at the end of the year.
One of the challenges that we knew going into Big 12 play several years ago is you better have depth, you better have depth that can compete at a high level. Probably the biggest difference in the conference that we used to be in and the conference that we're in now is that needs to happen if you want to win. For several reasons. One, when guys get injured, and they will, you need guys to step in and perform at a high level. The style of ball that exists in the Big 12, although very exciting style of play, you're going to end up taking more snaps. So when guys get tired, you better be able to replace those guys with guys that go in, perform at a very high level.
I think we're at that point right now. Have 55 guys on our team that have played Big 12 football. So that just means that there's guys that have played that are experienced and should continue to get better each and every year.
Q. You only had Trickett healthy for about three quarters last season, and obviously put together a pretty good team against Oklahoma State. What are you expecting out of him this year, and how do you keep him healthy and on the field?
COACH HOLGORSEN: Well, Clint's been around football his whole life. I think it starts with his father, Rick, who is a tremendous offensive line coach at Florida State, played three good high school years at North Florida Christian and played at a high level down there and a pretty good football situation, backed up E.J. Manual, backed up Jameis Winston for several years and has been around a lot of football.
He joined our team in August. And although he possesses a tremendous amount of knowledge when it comes to the game of football, he possessed zero knowledge when it came to our offense.
So it took him a while to be able to understand that. When I finally felt like he was ready to go, put him against Oklahoma State, had a tremendous game, got hurt and was never the same the rest of the year.
So you fast-forward a year later, August going into his senior year, a year later, not only does he possess the knowledge that it takes to be successful in the game of football, he understands the knowledge that needs to exist when it comes to our team.
He's been out there working with our guys all summer. There's a rapport that needs to exist with him and the receivers in order to be successful. They need to understand each and every one of their little nuances when it comes to being able to get open and sign language and a nod here and a cutoff there.
And all that's starting to exist with him right now with him and the rest of the guys. I think that's all going to take care of itself. Why I named him the starter, he's healthy, 100 percent. Arm strength is awesome, body weight is good. That's going to take care of itself.
The leadership aspect of it is something that we were missing. I was looking at there not only we had a bunch of guys coming back that played a lot of football but there wasn't any leadership that was present at the quarterback spot, at the skill spot.
He'll be able to take that to another level. People follow him. He understands what it takes to be successful. He needs to stay healthy. I think that's obviously the biggest thing. And right now we're talking to him on how the specific things that he can do to be able to protect himself, which is what every quarterback needs to do out there.
Q. After your Orange Bowl victory over Clemson coming into the league, tons of excitement around West Virginia football. Two years later, how important is it to rekindle that excitement after the two seasons you've had?
COACH HOLGORSEN: Well, the days of rolling through the Big East and being able to play in a BCS game are long gone. We're not thinking about that anymore. Although that was fun and that was a huge moment in West Virginia University, it's a whole different ballgame right now.
And one of the things that has happened in the Big 12 over the last two years, we have not been dominant in the Big 12, obviously.
I don't know how many teams have been dominant in the Big 12. Parity is upon us. Better be ready to go each and every week. You take Baylor last year, tremendous season. Art has done a great job. In 2012, they were at a pretty bad place about midseason. Now, they got it together towards the end of the season, but they weren't in a very good place then.
They stuck with it and went. We've been competitive. This past year we lost we were in three overtime games. We lost fourth quarter leads. Won a couple of close games. Each and every one was pretty much competitive. We need to stay the course. Continue to develop our talent, continue to recruit better, and then we'll win those games. Hopefully we can put a season together that everybody will be proud of.
Q. Question on your running game. How do you expect your running game to be with Charles Sims gone?
COACH HOLGORSEN: Well, Charles was a great player for us. He was one of those guys that came in and only was a firstyear starter with us. With that said, played a lot of ball, had a great year.
I think we've recruited well at that position. Dreamius Smith is the guy that's in the forefront right now, did have 5, 600 yards last year. Had the same amount of yards per carry as Charles did but just didn't get the touches because Charles was a little ahead of them.
You take some guy we've got some other guys that have started some games, and Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie, those guys have led our team in rushing the previous two seasons. Rushel Shell has had a great offseason. He's played a lot of ball. He started at Pitt as a true freshman. Looks phenomenal.
We've got a lot of guys that can do a lot of different things. The running back position needs to be versatile, needs to do a lot of different things. We feel we have a lot of guys that can do that.
Q. Dana, you're kind of known for your spread offenses going across the country. Do you actually recruit defensive guys to defend your type of offense, or what's your basic philosophy on defensive guys? And I know that I had asked Paul Rhoads and he said he recruits more defensive backs than maybe linebackers and defensive linemen go down.
COACH HOLGORSEN: When you play in the Big 12, you're going to have to defend the pass, and you're going to have to do it quickly. I think everybody understands the style of play that exists in the Big 12 and we're no different.
When it comes to recruiting defensive personnel, we try to recruit as much defensive personnel as you can. Better have some big guys up front that can stop the run. You better have linebackers that can fill gaps and stop the run. In addition to that, you better be able to drop coverage and be able to cover. The secondary is probably the most important position on the defense in today's day and time.
We need pass rush. With that said, we need guys to cover. I feel like Daryl Worley is here, he's one of the better cover guys that I've seen and he's only going into his second year on our team.
Karl Joseph is a guy that's extremely motivated and playing at a high level. We're trying to recruit the best kids that you possibly can and get those guys to understand what they're up against and be able to improve their skill set each and every year.
Q. In your two Big 12 matchups with Baylor, I think there's been about 250 points scored. The similarities with your offense and their offense, do you think that leads to those kind of shootouts? Do you expect another high-scoring game?
COACH HOLGORSEN: I think Art would agree with me on this: They did improve defensively last year. But you better be able to improve defensively and stop some people if you want to win some games. That doesn't mean you need to hold people to 14 points. Baylor had a good defense last year but still gave up some points. So I think we're in the 40s against them.
But that, the two games, I was not in a good place two years ago when everybody was excited about our 7063 victory against Baylor. Obviously I was not in a very good place because where we were at defensively. We played I think eight or ten freshmen in that game. You're not going to be able to be successful defensively, not going to be able to win games when you play that many freshmen.
Goes back to the depth comment I had a little bit ago. You better be able to plug people in there when guys go down or get tired and be able to perform at a high level if you want to win games in the Big 12.
Art has done a great job. I give him a tremendous amount of credit and I give his entire coaching staff credit for hanging in there. They've had some good players over the years, but they hadn't got to a championship level until last year. And they accomplished that, and they're the ones that everybody's going to be gunning for. They understand that.
But our game against them is going to be exciting just like each and every one of the other Big 12 games are going to be as well.