West Virginia’s defense was able to create four turnovers during last month’s spring game, which only reaffirms the message that Joe DeForest preached to his players all spring – getting turnovers means more possesses for Dana Holgorsen’s high-powered offense.
And more possessions for Dana Holgorsen’s high-powered offense will mean more points for the Mountaineers.
“I think our kids bought in all spring and showed it in the spring game,” DeForest said last month. “Four turnovers is a lot in a spring game.”
The new defensive coach was pleased with the way the players bought in to what they were being taught.
“Our kids did a great job from day one to day 15,” DeForest said. “They played hard and they played fast and that’s something that is good to see as a coaching staff that they finally understand it, I think, and going into fall camp we can build on what we just did.”
At the beginning of the spring, the offense clearly dominated the team portion of practices but as the spring wore on the defense began to turn the tide. In fact, by the end of spring drills, Holgorsen spent a good portion of his post-practice media sessions praising the defense.
What fans saw of the defense during the spring game is what those inside the stadium saw the last few weeks in practice. DeForest said the improvement was a matter of the players becoming more comfortable with the system, the coaches becoming more comfortable with the players and understanding their strengths and weaknesses.
“Any time there is change there is going to be a transition and fortunately for us the transition happened in week two and week three,” DeForest explained. “We still have a long way to go, but it’s a great starting point for the fall.”
DeForest did caution that it is much easier playing against something you already know, and as the players became more familiar with what the offense was doing, it was easier for them to anticipate things.
“Going against this offense for 15 days our kids understand it and they can anticipate things as opposed to going against a team that you see and you only get to prepare for for three days,” he said. “There is a big difference.”
Heading into the fall, DeForest is looking for guys to step up and become leaders when camp begins in August. Developing leaders will be one of their top objectives.
“We don’t really have a lot of experience on defense and we surely don’t have a lot of vocal leaders, so someone has got to emerge,” said DeForest. “(Safety) Karl Joseph
did a great job this spring. I know he’s not a leader (yet) but he jumped out as a true freshman who came in and he’s definitely going to contribute a lot. The corners got better (during the spring game). They didn’t have a great spring.”
For the most part, DeForest said the coaches were able to get most of the defenses in during the spring. All that remains are team-specific blitzes that they will take care of this fall.
“There are a lot of blitzes that we didn’t do this spring that we will add in the fall based on our opponent,” he explained. “It could be a pressure we’ll use three weeks and another pressure we will use for three or four weeks; different ideas based on how our opponent protects the passer.”