A jovial Dana Holgorsen addressed the media before spring practices begin. Dana, looking like a coach who is now secure in his place at the school, noted that several of the top officials were in attendance and he “will be on his best behavior”. As WVU begins its march towards the end of the school year, Dana remarked on how the older you get the faster things go by.
Dana mentioned the practice schedule, noting the Mountaineers would practice Tuesday afternoon, Thursday afternoon and once on the weekend. Unlike past seasons, where the spring game has been held at the Greenbrier and practices have been held in Charleston and Wheeling, this year’s squad would remain in Morgantown for the spring game because of player time. Dana left open the possibility of returning to cities in the Mountain State next year or in the future but this year would the team would stay in Morgantown.
West Virginia placed the most players in the NFL Combine, which starts in earnest today, out of all 10 teams in the Big 12. West Virginia has seen success in the NFL draft since it moved to the Big 12 and Dana does not expect that to change going forward. The downside of placing so many talented players in the NFL Combine and into the NFL Draft is that college coaches must replace those players with equally or more talented players if they want to continue to have success. “This time of the year everyone goes ‘ohmygod’ how are going to replace those guys. Well, we seem to do it pretty successfully each and every year. Been improving here over the course of the last three to four years, so I don’t anticipate this year being any different”. This is notable as West Virginia loses all three starters along its defensive line, several starters on his offensive line, several starters in the secondary and its 2.5-year starter at quarterback.
An interesting tidbit dropped by Dana is the recruiting areas for West Virginia. You fans know it, but it was nice to hear the coach say it, West Virginia is an east coast team and plans to recruit east coast players. Media pundits have continued the idea that WVU needs to recruit Texas in order to compete in the Big 12. Dana and the staff have noted that the players they can recruit best come from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, the Carolinas and junior college. That is how WVU gets the best available talent to Morgantown. Tony Gibson, the senior member of the assistant coaches and the only WV native, will continue to recruit West Virginia. “There’s nobody better to recruit those kids than Tony”, said Dana, “His fourth year being a defensive coordinator, I think that speaks volumes where we are at continuity wise”
A major change for the program is the new analytic world. WVU has hired former graduate assistant Dan Gerberry, who coached tights at WVU. Dana joked “we’re glad to have him back after that one year stint at that school an hour north, but he’s back to be on the good side, in West Virginia.”.
On the depth chart and injuries
There’s four guys that have been long-term. Yodny [Cajuste], Ka’Raun White, Brendan Ferns and Dravon Askew-Henry. Those four guys are doing great. They will be a part of spring football. Those four guys are potential starters for us. Have been starters, potential starters, difference makers. Whether they are a full go in spring or we need to ease them into it, that will be a day-to-day thing. They’ve all done good and seeing them out in spring practice and drills is good. Other than that we’re good, we’re healthy. Everyone else is expected to participate.
on splitting reps for quarterbacks
Well we only have three, which is a problem. We need to add some bodies at quarterback. Those guys will have lots of opportunities to show what they’ve got. It’s obviously an open competition since we lost our starting quarterback from the last two years [Skyler Howard]. All three of those guys were here all of last year. We have a good idea of what they can do. Really excited about Will Grier, he’s a proven guy. Chugs is getting older and Cody is getting to the point where we can rep him seriously.
on offensive depth
We’ve got fifteen bodies at o-line, which means we’ll be able to play a lot of football. Our receiver numbers are down a little bit but we have good walk-ons. Running backs we have a ton of bodies. I’m excited to see what we’ve got.
on the analytics and what turned the knob for Dana
These analysts don’t necessarily sit there and crunch numbers and do studies. That’s part of their job. I would’ve added analysts a couple of years ago if we could have, we just weren’t in a position to be able to do that. This is becoming to where everyone is doing it. The majority of what they are doing is getting to know who we are and who we’re playing. They help you in getting forward to the next game. They can be a part of the offseason. They can help you self scout. They can watch tape all off season which is really important. I think its important to have someone who doesn’t have to worry about coaching but they can get ahead. They can gather information on who opponents are and then basically give the information to the coaches.
on position moves and replacing center Tyler Orlosky
If you ask Wick, he’s going to give you seven answers. Position wise, there really is nothing to talk about. We’re going to continue move people around. You recruit defensive guys who might become offense guys. You recruit offensive guys who might become defense guys. Center is going to be something to watch. Orlosky was guy for three, three and a half years. You didn’t have to worry about the calls, you didn’t have to worry about the snaps. You’re going to see about 5 guys rep center. One thing Wick does different than what Ron [Crook] did is he moves people around. You’re going to have guards playing tackle, tackles playing center, centers playing tackles. He just constantly moves all these guys around. You gain a knowledge of what he’s asking them to do. Matt Jones has snapped. Kelby Wickline [son of OL coach Joe Wickline] is snapping. Ray Raulerson has been a center in the past. Grant’s [Lingafelter] is trying to snap. [Jacob] Buccigrossi was recruited as a center. There’s bodies there, we just have to coach them hard in the spring.
on Chase Behrndt and the defensive line
We had zero D-line scout team bodies last year. He did us a solid and just moved so we could have a body to block. But he was recruited as an o-lineman. Those wrestlers are pretty good o-linemen. Alex Shriner is another one. He’s a wrestler. He’s been at nose guard out of necessity. But having Jaleel Fields. Recruiting Jalen Harvey. [Xavier] Pegues is back. So you’ve got more nose bodies now. Which means you don’t have to have those guys who really need to be o-linemen, so we’ll continue to move those guys to try and find a role. We’ll try to play them and if not, we’ll move them back.
on giving up play calling duties 6 years into a head coaching career
I wanna live. Wanna live a long, happy, healthy life. I had Dale Sparks in here. He dropped off some pictures, family pictures. I got a line of them in my house now. It’s the first time I’ve looked at it over six years. I look different now than I did six years ago. It’s the right time, it makes sense. More of CEO type guy. You have to spend as much time recruiting asy ou possibly can, fundraising is a big part of what we do. The game management aspect of it, although I don’t think it’s been bad, I think Gibby would be the first to tell you that we’ve done some things offensively that have helped win ten games, which is hard to do. Just be able to oversee everything and live a happy life.
on taking two quarterbacks in the 2018 recruiting class
We’ve got five slotted. And we’re at three. We gotta catch up. With William and the two kids who have left, voluntarily, Michael Ferns and William Crest. Wonderful kids, love them to death. Leaving for different reasons, Will wants to go play quarterback somewhere. He is going to drop down and go play quarterback. I wish him nothing but success and will stay in touch for the rest of my life. Ferns wants to be an engineer. He’s burned out and wants to focus on what’s going to be a big part of his life moving forward. Our numbers five at quarterback and we only have three, so we gotta add two. And we’re looking right now.
on JUCO transfers
It’s always the best ones. We’ve already added one in Corey Winfield. We added him after signing day and haven’t talked about him. HE’s another long corner who fits the mold of Daryl Worley and Rasul Douglas. He’s a good kid from Syracuse. I’m excited about him joining us in May. We’ve still got room to add more, I’m not gonna tell you exactly what we’re targeting but we’ve got room to add guys who can make us better next year. We’re always going to target four-year guys like we got with [Rushel] Shell and like we got with Grier. If you can get a guy who has to sit and you have room to take them, then take them. We have room for those guys right now but we also got room for grad transfers or some laid out junior college guys. We’ve got room to add some of those guys as well.
on incorporating tight ends into the offense
Not really. I can’t tell you that either. We’re going to do some different things offensively. Me and Jake are very similar but I’m going to try and keep some secrets from you guys from now and when’s the game in DC? September 3rd. It’s a long ways from now but we gotta start playing it now. I gotta try to figure out who we are and have some surprises for that first game. It’s going to be a big one, buy some tickets!