MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University head football coach Dana Holgorsen addressed members of the media Thursday night, as the Mountaineers finished their 11th spring practice.
Opening Statement Eleven practices are down. Overall, it is going pretty good. I will give you a quick update on injuries. Adam Pankey had successful knee surgery yesterday. He is obviously laid up, and we are expecting an October return from injury. Everyone comes back from a knee injury differently, so we don’t know if we will have him for next year. Dante Campbell is out with a shoulder, and he will be released in July. (Terrell) Chestnut is out with a knee injury, and he will be released in July. Jewone Snow is out with a shoulder, and he will be released in May. Avery Williams is out there. He is in a green jersey, and he will be a full go in May. Andrew Buie has a hamstring injury. You saw him in red today, so he is day-to-day. Pat Eger’s ankle that we talked about is something that he is starting to come back from, and he is day-to-day. Those are the guys that are out.
I did release a depth chart, which will be released tonight – understand that it is very tentative. The depth chart could change on a day-to-day basis. Whoever we line up as first-team offense and first-team defense is what you will see on the sheet. It could change on Saturday morning, on Tuesday or for the spring game.
We have a coaches’ clinic this weekend on Friday night and Saturday morning. Coach (Steve) Dunlap has done a great job of cultivating a lot of coaches. We are expecting around 300 coaches to be at this clinic. They will be coming in on Friday. We will speak on Friday night, and we have about six very, very successful high school coaches that will speak on Saturday morning. After that, they will come to the practice on Saturday.
We have four practices left. Saturday will be a heavy, heavy practice. We haven’t had a full scrimmage yet, and we won’t have one until Tuesday. We have had mini scrimmages at the end of practice. Those have gone well. We have been focusing way more on fundamentals and teaching. We are running a lot of team reps. We will run mini scrimmages again on Saturday, and then on Tuesday, we will have our biggest scrimmage of the spring. Thursday is non-padded, so we can’t do a whole lot that day. Then, we have the spring game on Saturday. We are getting closer. We have done a lot of teaching and a lot of evaluating. We have a long way to go on all three sides of the ball. We are not prepared to name any starters, and in my mind, I am not prepared to figure out what type of team we will have yet. I do like the attention and focus that these guys have been playing with. When they come in, they are eager to learn. Nobody thinks we are any good. I encourage our guys not to ready anything online, on the message boards or any other publications. No one knows what our team is going to be like. The only people that can dictate that are the coaches and players. We have to come in and just get better every day.
On why he is releasing a depth chart now I figured I would make it a little easier for our media relations department. We have a tremendous relationship with our media relations staff, so I figured I would make it a little bit easier for them. They needed something for the spring game that will serve as a tentative depth chart. If nothing else, you can see who is playing what position. In the fall, we will add another 20 guys that we expect to come in and compete for playing time. It is going to change in August or September. Guys are going to get bigger. If you take a guy like Sean Walters, who came here as a safety, he was playing outside backer and he is now playing inside backer. Guys get bigger and mature. Who knows what their ceiling is once they get older.
On Vernon Davis playing wide receiver We were watching him catch punts. I was watching Vernon catch and run, and he was running forward at faster rate than he was running backwards. He was sticking his toe in the ground, and he was fluid. We do this periodically. It looked good enough to us on Tuesday that we kept him on offense today. We will keep evaluating whether that is a full-time position move. He did look better moving forward than backwards.
On how Davis’ move changes the cornerback position We need guys at corner to step up and be players. We can’t get rid of the people we had and bring in six new players. This isn’t the NFL. We played young corners that are going to get better – that we expect to get better. Vernon was somewhere around third- or fourth-team corner at the time, so we decided to try him at receiver to see if he could crack the two-deep depth chart or be a starter. It is probably in the best interest of our football team to have a first-team receiver than a third- or fourth-team cornerback.
On if he liked Davis returning punts I am not prepared to say that yet. We are not going to know who our returners are for some time. We have about four quality young guys that we brought in to be returners. We have guys that we are evaluating from a return standpoint. I am not comfortable in saying that he is a returner at this point. He looked good moving forward, being fluid and sticking his toe in the ground.
On how the quarterbacks will be handled for the spring game We will mix them. What we have been doing in the previous 11 practices is Paul (Millard) will go with the first team then (Ford Childress) will go with the first team. Not only do they switch, but the receivers rotate. The linemen will also go back and forth. We keep the quarterback with a specific center, and that changes every other practice. We will keep doing the same thing during camp. There will be a lot of moving parts during the spring game, and I hope we win. Spring games are tough. You want it to look good for the fans that come. It is going to be a festive day, and we want it to resemble football.
On Pat Eger He will be able to play other spots. What you guys saw him do is about all he did today. He is not a full go. We didn’t want to put him at center with a quarterback and then have him take himself out of practice because his ankle was hurting. We didn’t feel comfortable with him going through the whole practice. We are so inexperienced at quarterback and center that if you start mixing and matching too much, it will begin to look bad. We didn’t want to put Pat out there and then have to put another center out there.
On Isaiah Bruce He is not close to his ceiling. We don’t know what the ceiling is yet, but he will reach it at some point in career. This is one of the reasons we were subpar on defense last year. When you play so many young kids, you ought to get better. Every young kid that played on defense last year ought to be better this year, or they are not doing something right. He is not having his best spring right now. He is clearly a starter, but Doug Rigg is pushing him pretty hot and heavy right now. Guys need to come in here and not be comfortable about having a starting spot. If you do that, you are going to be beat out by somebody. I am not saying Isaiah is doing that. He is a very determined kid, but he needs to keep progressing.
On the Mountaineer mentality It would be hard to explain it in one small press conference. We have talked about that a lot. We have taken different aspects in terms of what this program is about and who we are. We want to embrace different traditions, understand the past and learn about this great state. We want to educate them. How are all of our young kids going to understand all about it unless we educate them on it? We have taken a good portion of this spring semester and educated them. We are going to have a workout at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning, and then we are going to have a lesson on it. We are going to teach them something. We are going to teach them what this program is about. I had to learn that. I couldn’t step into this role and learn everything overnight. We are teaching all the new coaches and all the new players. We are reinforcing why specific things are important, and we are going to embrace a whole bunch of it.
Last Friday morning, we taught the group about the history of Country Roads. Half of them knew who John Denver was, and the other didn’t know. You get guys from so many different states, and some of them don’t understand the different traditions. It is our job to teach them that. We attempted to teach them the lyrics, and after we broke practice, we played it, sat there and enjoyed it. It is one of the best traditions in college football.
On Shannon Dawson singing Country Roads We didn’t actually let him sing it. The only way that would have worked is if we had a karaoke machine that could have overcome his actual voice. He can play the piano, which is impressive, but we don’t let him sing.