MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Dana Holgorsen will be the first to admit that his internal compass is always pointing north, West Virginia’s new head football coach rarely pausing for reflection. But Holgorsen managed to do just that one serene afternoon last week during a rare fishing trip with some buddies.
“It was very calm; there were no houses, there was no traffic, no motorboats,” Holgorsen said last Friday afternoon. “There was just a lot of peaceful time to the point where I could reflect on what’s going on and understand the situation that changed last Friday.”
What changed for Holgorsen is that the mood of the entire state now rests in his hands each Saturday afternoon this fall. If his football team performs well and scores a lot of points then everybody will be happy – something Holgorsen fully understands.
“I’ve been preparing for this for some time,” he said. “I’ve worked with some good people – Mike Leach and Kevin Sumlin – who are very, very dear friends of mine that you take specific things from.
“Seven months ago when I sat here I knew what was ahead of me and I felt very good about it due to the fact that I have a tremendous amount of trust in Oliver (Luck) and have a tremendous amount of trust in Dr. Clements,” Holgorsen said. “We just expedited the process, and I gathered my thoughts and hit the ground running a couple of days ago.”
Holgorsen held his first team meeting last Tuesday morning, and then after jumping out of an airplane (landing safely if not a little roughly) later that afternoon, he presided over his first staff meeting on Friday morning.
“We had a good meeting,” he said.
If Holgorsen’s master plan for WVU football seemed a little vague a week ago before he was named the school’s 33rd head football coach, he says that was by design. His job was to run the offense and score points, not undermine the guy in charge. Now circumstances have obviously changed. Holgorsen says one of his biggest objectives right now is getting to know the defensive coaches that he inherited much, much better.
“(Getting to know them) wasn’t my job prior to a week ago,” he said. “My job (was to run the offense). The other day we had all of the offensive guys and all of the defensive guys and I knew all of (the offensive guys),” Holgorsen said. “I knew them by name. I met with them. I got their cell number. I know who they are; where they’re from and all that, and my job now is to do the same thing with this group (defensive players).”
Holgorsen understands that he has to have a staff full of people pulling their oars in the same direction. All three engines (offense, defense and special teams) have to be running at the same speed.
“I interacted with some of (the defensive coaches) and I’ve got a good relationship with some, but I’ve got to get to know them all,” he said. “I’ve got to know who they are, what makes them tick, where they’re from and do a better job with that. That doesn’t change a thing from a schematic point. That’s Coach (Jeff) Casteel’s job. How Kirlav (assistant coach Bill Kirelawich) interacts with his guys in the (team meeting room), that’s not going to change. That’s his job. But as head coach you’ve got to get to know your guys and make sure you know what makes them tick.”
Tactically and schematically Holgorsen believes the staff he has in place, from the guys he brought in to the guys that were already here, is second to none.
“I think every player on this team has a good position coach,” he said. “We have a good scheme on offense. We have a good scheme on defense. Our special teams have got specific people in charge of it that are implementing their thoughts and views on it.
“All of those schemes and all of those coaches are fine. Our strength staff does a good job. That’s not going to change,” Holgorsen said. “Coach (Mike) Joseph and the guys working under him do a good job and they’re on track. Coach (Dave) Kerns and the athletic trainers - that’s not going to change.”
Holgorsen said his staff will work hard to get things done, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be in the office 24 hours a day.
“I work a lot but that doesn’t mean I’m at the office a lot,” he said. “The job follows you home. If you go on vacation that cell phone is still going to ring. I wouldn’t be doing the football program justice and I wouldn’t be doing the University justice, or the state justice, if I wasn’t answering my phone calls even if I was taking a long weekend or a five-day vacation.”
Holgorsen believes there comes a point when a staff can get worn down if their head coach is constantly grinding them.
“Some people get away with it (working excessive hours). I could do that if I wanted but I’ve got 20 other people that work for me and I’d be wearing them out as well,” he explained. “You don’t want those guys worn out. You want them fired up and ready to roll.”
Holgorsen said all of the coaches he worked for had a similar philosophy.
“I’ve worked for guys starting with Hal Mumme who you work and when you’re done you go home,” he said. “Bob Stoops is like that and Mike Leach worked for him and then came to Tech. Kevin Sumlin worked for him and then went to Houston. Mike Gundy is a family guy and likes to go home. Everybody that I’ve worked for are guys that do it like that.
“If you know what you’re doing and you’ve got confidence in what you’re doing and you go in and you work 8-10-12 hours then you can get it done. If it takes 14-16-18 hours then you better stay.”
And then when the work gets done, if you want to stick your fishing pole into the water or even cast your line into the trees every now and again so be it, says Holgorsen.
“I’m not a good fisherman, now,” he laughed. “This is supposed to be the best small-mouth bass fishing in possibly the United States and I caught like three, and I was out there for like eight hours.”
That’s OK, coach. Just keep us happy on Saturdays this fall.Follow John Antonik on Twitter: @JohnAntonik