West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen offers his thoughts on the team prior to West Virginia's first practice of the spring, which took place indoors inside the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility.
We are excited to get started. We actually thought about canceling this, because I heard the University would cancel school, but the guys were eager to begin. I asked all the assistant coaches what they wanted to do, and they were more eager to start coaching than the kids, who were eager to get going as well. We are looking for a lot of fundamental stuff today. There will be some special teams drills then a lot of individual work. It should not be as much teaching what to do, but a lot of technique and how to do things properly because we have a lot more guys coming back than we did last year.
On his (Dana Holgorsen's) approach to spring practice
I think everybody does the same thing in spring. You hopefully have a lot of guys back and the majority of your team. You never will have your full roster. I think at this point last year we had less than half of our team. This year, we have upwards of about 80 percent of our team. That makes it easier when it comes to teaching these guys how to do things properly. If you ever get into a position where you are not explaining what to do but how to do it, that gives you a chance to really be successful.
On the coaching duties of Senior Associate Head Coach Tom Bradley
Tom (Bradley) brings a lot to the table. Last time we talked, it was not a done deal, so I could not get into anything. I did not know exactly how he would fit into the puzzle, because if we had not gotten him then we would have gone for the best available coach out there. (Assistant Coach) Damon Cogdell would have been great in teaching the defensive line, but Tom has coached everything and the defensive line is a pretty important place. He will be great coaching the defensive line and recruiting western Pennsylvania, and he will also help me with a lot. He has been in this profession for 33 years and has seen a lot. He will be able to help (Assistant) coach (Tony) Gibson when it comes to game planning, being a sounding board on how to do things properly and technique wise. His nickname is 'Scrap' for a reason. He will bring a lot to the table, and we are fortunate and happy to have him on board. He is a great guy and will get along with the staff well.
On coach (Assistant Coach) Damon Cogdell coaching linebackers
This is new to (Assistant Coach) Damon (Cogdell) as we all know, but he played linebacker. Does that mean he is more comfortable with linebackers? I do not think so. It is a new scheme for him, so what I told Damon is that coach Gibson will be working with the front. The coordinator needs to have a good handle on the front. We have a couple of secondary coaches that know exactly what their role is going to be. Obviously, Tony will oversee it all. Damon needs to learn the entire front and Tom will help out as much as he can, but primarily he will be with the linebackers.
On being patient with returning players in spring practice
We will be less patient with mental mistakes. There is always going to be mistakes and adjustments with schemes. We are going to adjust some things offensively, defensively and with special teams, but not to the point that they do not know what is going on. We will be less patient with them, and they should have a handle on what we are doing. We need to get them better with the actual product, and with the technique and how they do things.
On older players setting an example
Obviously, it helps having guys that have been through it. You still forget, this is the first offseason for a lot of those guys out there. Guys like (senior linebacker) Brandon Golson
, (senior wide receiver) Mario Alford
and (senior defensive lineman) Dontrill Hyman
have not had an offseason yet. They are older, relatively experienced, but we only have 12 seniors again. The junior class is one that we are excited about. Most of our juniors have been here for three or four years now.
On what is being looked for out of the players in spring practice
We have a plan. These first three days will be non-padded and in the Caperton Indoor Facility, so we can teach and not worry about the physical part of it, but the mental part. We want to see where they are from the technique and make sure they know what they are doing. We will teach them for three days and then go on spring back. We will come back and get into the physical nature and toughness of the game, which is what football is all about. I am not too eager to be in here doing non-contact stuff, but you have to put in the three days with no pads anyway, so get those in there and come back from spring break and get the physical nature of the game where we need it to be.
On number of scholarship players this season
I have not looked. If I had to guess, I'd say 50 or 52. We did not lose a lot of guys, and we will look better than we did at any point last year. Losing Charles Sims and Will Clarke is going to hurt, but other than that we are not losing much. We have guys redshirting that will step up and take their spot. Camaraderie and continuity will matter. We have 12 days to do a lot of situational stuff and inside runs, and try to get better at that. The continuity of your team needs to improve and we should make strides on that.
On returning a lot of players
That is why we are pretty eager to get started. We wanted to get these three days in to be able to introduce some stuff so when we come back we can really get into the nuts and bolts of really being able to play the game. We were not able to do that last year until the middle of August.
was suspended in early January. I wanted to keep him on scholarship and keep him in school to work toward his degree, but he has been suspended. He is suspended indefinitely, and I have not thought about it since it happened.
On depth at running back
We are pretty deep at running back. We have five guys with a lot of college experience. (Redshirt junior running back) Dustin Garrison
is healthy now, (redshirt junior running back) Andrew Buie
is back, (sophomore running back) Wendell Smallwood
and (senior running back) Dreamius Smith
know what to do now and (redshirt sophomore running back) Rushel Shell
has played a whole year of college football. We have those five guys, and the fullback type bodies with (redshirt junior half back) Cody Clay
, (junior half back) Garrett Hope
and (redshirt freshman half back) Elijah Wellman, so we have a lot of bodies. We should make a lot of progress.