All coaches speak in coach speak. It is just a habit that comes with the job. Eventually you offer up platitudes and cliches that give little information. UNLESS! Unless you can look between the words and decipher what the coach is really saying.
Dana Holgorsen took to the podium Tuesday and spoke to the media during the Big 12 Media Days. Let’s put on our tinfoil hats and decipher his coach speak.
Q. Recently Stedman Bailey has returned to West Virginia to be a student assistant coach. What's it like having him back there and what do you think he can bring to the coaching staff as well as the players?
DANA HOLGORSEN: Well, Stedman was a great receiver for me at West Virginia. Came out early, so he didn't have his degree. Went to the St. Louis Rams and had an unfortunate incident in Miami about a year ago, so he's not able to play right now. We worked pretty closely with the Rams to figure out what's in his best interest right now, since he's not cleared to play. The best thing for him to do is focus on his future and the number one step for that is to get his undergraduate degree. He's going to be considered a student coach. He will come back and take a full class load which is different than a graduate assistant. A graduate assistant is going to take six to nine hours. He needs to take about 15 hours to get his degree in another year or so. We will see how much he brings to the table. I'm anticipating him being able to take a couple of young receivers and showing them technique stuff and kinda doing what he did with the Rams a little bit, just get his feet wet with coaching. He's got high hopes for being able to play again and that's going to be out of his control and out of my control, but in the meantime we want him to get his degree and hopefully make a difference on couple of these what I think are talented young receivers we have at West Virginia.
TRANSLATION: I taught Stedman everything he knows, from how to drink Red Bulls to how to stiff-arm Pitt cornerbacks before you score touchdowns. Now that I’m older, I don’t have time to teach all of these young kids. So I need Stedman to come in and relate to these guys and teach them all of the things I taught him. Plus, since Los Angeles is going to pay him, I can buy more Red Bull.
Q. Dana, what did you learn from your one season with Joe at Oklahoma State, and what type of offensive identity do you hope he brings to your program next year?
DANA HOLGORSEN: Arguably the best "O" line coach I've been around, and I've made that statement on more than one coach. He brings a wealth of knowledge. I've got a good "A" line coach in Ron Crook, who is still heading up the offensive line meetings. What Joe is going to bring to the table is he's got a wealth of knowledge when it comes to football in general. I feel like we need to get back to our roots just a little bit more, maintain the run game that we did last year that allowed us to have the about Big 12 leading rusher in Wendell Smallwood, and though he's moved on to the NFL, I feel like we've got three capable bodies to do the same stuff that Wendell did, and then we've got to improve in the pass game. Averaging 35 points a game, being a top-20 offense isn't good enough in this league. So we've got to move the ball a little bit more, score a little bit more points if we want to be in contention to win it.
TRANSLATION: I name all of my coaches after letters and we lost the ‘O’ coach. So I took the one with the best O-face. Joe Wickline showed me back in Stillwater that the moms aren’t that picky so that’s where he perfected his O-face. Y’all ever notice that I’m a pretty good play caller but we don’t win enough? It’s because this league is hard man. You score points and the other team scores more points. Wasn’t like that in the Big East.
Q. You just alluded to the passing game. Skyler Howard at moments was very good last year, but he was also very bad at moments. How has he looked this spring?
DANA HOLGORSEN: It is it's been a huge emphasis for us. Winning games and losing games, everybody points the finger at me. Being effective in the passing game everybody points the finger at him. That's not necessarily fair. So being able to have a more comfortable pocket, having a good rapport with the receivers that were all young guys and keep in mind, Skyler, that was really his first year of playing football for West Virginia as well. Those two things, I think, are going to make a huge difference. So having Coach Wickline be able to widen that pocket a little bit, having the timing with him and all these receivers that we got, I think it's going to make a bunch of difference and if we can maintain the running game where we were at and improving that passing game a little bit I feel like we'll be where we need to be.
TRANSLATION: Joe Wickline is really good at widening pockets. I saw him do it a bunch in Stillwater. He crammed like 3 Red Bulls, 2 Bear Claws and 4 phone numbers in one pocket. And he doesn’t even wear cargo shorts.
Q. Defensively, Dana, a lot of guys have moved on to the NFL, Nick and Kari and Daryl, really good leaders, guys that played a lot of snaps for you a lot of years. Can they be replaced? Do you have something in the pipeline for that type of leadership that they provided?
DANA HOLGORSEN: I was proud of that group of seniors. All those guys you're talking about, we had -- they're all fourth-year seniors and fifth-year seniors, so they've been in the program basically as long as I've been in the program. Those guys were outstanding developmental guys, guys like Terrell Chestnut, fifthyear senior had a wonderful year; guys like Kyle Rose, fifth-year senior, Kwiatkoski, fifth-year senior, Barber, fifth-year senior, Pettway, fifth-year senior, those -- K.J. Dillon, fourth-year senior, Karl Joseph, fourth-year senior. Those guys have played a lot of ball. We recruited those guys four and five years ago. We didn't quit recruiting four or five years ago, either. We got some guys that played behind these guys and got a lot of experience on special teams. There's nine fifth-year seniors that are slated to start. Dravon is going to be a junior and Al Benton is going to be a senior, so that's a lot of experience, a lot of older guys played a lot of snaps and I got all the confidence in the world in Tony Gibson is to get those guys to learn how to play together. That's what that group last year had going for them. They played so many snaps together that they knew how to play together. I feel like we got the bodies, and we got the players, we just gotta get those guys to learn how to play together.
TRANSLATION: I’m good at recruiting guys who go to the NFL. And we have more guys who could go to the NFL this year. We played guys last year and we’ll play guys this year and some of those guys will go to the NFL. Have I said NFL yet, because if not, NFL!
Q. You had Wendell Smallwood last year, and it seemed it was really a difficult decision to pick an All-Big 12 pre-season running back this year. Do you think we are seeing a renaissance in this league that it's not just going to be known for passing?
DANA HOLGORSEN: It started to trend that way a year ago with what we have done in the running game the last couple of years, with what Oklahoma did last year, you know, they struggled a little bit in the run game early but they could run the ball as good as anybody in the country toward the end of the year. Baylor did a good job of running the ball, even my man Kingsbury ran the ball more than he has in the past. Already. So you've gotta be able to do that, you gotta be able to run the ball. I've talked a lot about improving the pass game, but by no means is that going to detour anything that we're trying to get accomplished in the run game. Wendell had a great year but everything starts up front. We got Tyler Orlosky, here, fifth-year senior at center, Adam Pankey who has played over 2,000 snaps at guard, fifth-year senior, Tony Matteo, fifth-year senior, you know a couple of good young tackles, so I feel like we've got a pretty good "O" line. That's where it starts. Then we've got to find a back who hits that thing quick, and keep him healthy and keep him fresh and I think we will be just as effective in the run game next year as we were this past year.
TRANSLATION: You guys asked about the running game when we throw the ball? Well I guess if I have to run the ball we will run the ball. This one coach asked me if I knew a joke and I said “Big 12 teams run the ball” We both had a good laugh at that one.