MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Well, this escalated quickly.
Last week, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen claimed that there was a lack of leadership on the roster last year. Today, CBS Sports' columnist Gregg Doyel roundly blasted Holgorsen, saying Holgorsen is pointing fingers in the wrong direction.
Read the column, then come back and we'll sort things out.
Finished? OK. A doozy, right?
In short, Doyel says Holgorsen should be taking more of the blame for the utter collapse in Morgantown last season and not pinning the blame on players. Holgorsen's comment last week about the lack of leadership was ultimately spun on the national level into a criticism of Geno Smith. Holgorsen and players stood up for Smith's leadership Tuesday morning.
So, Doyel takes Holgorsen to task. It happened, it's harsh, it hurts.
My thoughts? This is all pretty darn overblown -- but if we're taking everything at face value, sure, Doyel has every right to pen that column. Let me try to lay some thoughts out.
West Virginia is coming off a 7-6 season, the back half of which included five straight losses, two wins, then a spanking in the Pinstripe Bowl. Despite having three dynamic playmakers on offense in Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, the Mountaineers slipped, stumbled and fell flat on their faces.
We all agree on that much.
Now we're eight months out. It's fall camp, a new beginning for every team in the country. What media hears at this point in the season, especially at perennially strong programs like West Virginia, often depends on how the team did the previous year. Cases in point:
I. If the team is coming off a good season, players and coaches will laud the seniors from the year before, say they want to keep the momentum and things learned, and say they want to make it "their" team now. Whole lot of pumping the tires of players who are either in the NFL or merely college graduates. It's a great position to be in.
II. If the team is coming off a poor season, players and coaches will try to move on, say they'll learn from the year before, and (mostly) spin everything as if the team couldn't be in a better position right now. "We're going to play motivated. We'll be dangerous. We've got something to prove." "I think we're being overlooked. We're going to suprise some people." "Our offense will be even better than last year's" (oh, really?). Whole lot of forgetting the doldrums of last year and trying to install some sort of common refrain or motto that will bring the team together and, hopefully, help bring more wins in the fall.
West Virginia, you see, is that second selection.
The players say they're closer now, there aren't superstars and they like that, they were a lot tighter knit this summer than last, the camaraderie is better than it's ever been. They say despite losing three draft picks on offense and instead having three quarterbacks rotating today, their offense will be even better than last year's.
And they might be absolutely right -- who knows? It's fall camp. It's the time to over-hype.
And then Holgorsen's staff brought in the motto: T.E.A.M. (Toughness, Effort, All in, Motivation). They all have T-shirts and bracelets and notes throughout the football building with that acronym on it. That's what happens when teams are coming off a poor season, coming off a collapse.
So, when the media asks whether the leadership is better this year than last? Stick with the program. Go team, go T.E.A.M, stay positive.
They didn't blame anyone by name. They just blamed "leadership" -- same with Holgorsen. "Leadership" is so vague it's brilliant. Except that a columnist might just call your bluff and write a scathing column about how you shouldn't blame your players for the collapse.
At it's heart, this is a non-story. It's been propelled by a couple chance questions asked of a college coach, his players and an NFL coach. But it's fall camp, so sometimes one little comment brings everyone to blows.
That's just from my view on the mountain.
What do you think? Fire back in the comment section.
Stephen J. Nesbitt:
and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.