Football: Coach Holgorsen News Conference
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Coach Dana Holgorsen addresses the media following practice No. 4 on Sunday, Mar. 18.
Practice four just got done. I was pretty fired up about one of the things after the first day of pads. You question how physical your team is because they haven’t hit in a while. We talked a lot about that in meetings today. We got in here about 2:30 p.m., and had a couple hours of meetings and talked a lot about being a more physical football team. I don’t care what kind of offense you run, what kind of defense you run or any of that, if you’re not physical you’re not going to be very good. I was really pleased with how they responded to that and got out there and did a lot more things from a physical nature, so that was good to see. Probably had about a dozen recruits in today, which getting guys to come in to watch practice is something we’re emphasizing as everybody across the country is, but had a really good turnout as far as a bunch of quality guys coming in to watch practice. We met for two hours and then went out there and got a lot of snaps in for a couple hours. I was pleased with how it went and overall have been pleased with the effort these guys are giving.
The defense is coming along. They’re being spoon fed a little bit. They’re putting in one or two new things a day. I don’t see a whole lot of blown assignments or mental busts; there are mistakes everywhere out there as far as offense, defense, and special teams, but I’ve been really pleased with how those guys are coming along defensively. We’re turning the ball over a little too much offensively. Geno threw a couple of picks today. He seems comfortable. He’s running everything, but if you turn the ball over, you’re not going to win. The flip side of that is the defense is doing a good job of getting interceptions. They haven’t gotten the ball out from a fumble standpoint, but they didn’t drop any interceptions like our last practice. Coach DeForest has talked about the mentality of causing turnovers. It looks to me like they’re paying attention to it. Overall, it was a good day. We got a lot of work done. I look forward to getting two more practices in this week.
On if anyone is standing out defensively
Travis Bell had two picks in team period today. He made a break on the ball, which was good. We had a big third-down period, which the offense converted 50 percent or better at, which from an offensive perspective is good, but from a defensive perspective not so good. He made a nice break on the ball. Geno also forced one deep for another interception. Bell looks like he’s doing his part.
Will Clarke is a guy who gives a tremendous amount of effort.
On speaking with the Steelers’ Mike Tomlin at Pro Day
It was chit-chat. I had met him one other time. He’s a good guy. It was basically about the guys he’s looking at and what he does with his time. It’s a completely different situation. He was getting out and seeing some different things, which is something I wish I could do.
On what he’s learned this past week
I had a sense that our morale was high. From the eight weeks of the offseason, we were around them the last four weeks quite a bit in meetings and watching competition, weightlifting and team runs. You can sense that they’re excited about what’s going on. We added some defensive coaches, and I sense that they’re pretty fired up about being here. They’re eager to learn. I sense that after watching four practices that they’re excited.
On the play of small-statured WR Jordan Thompson
If you can’t touch him, you can’t tackle him. A quick story about Wes Welker, I told the team this story about three weeks ago. He came out of Texas Tech at 185 pounds. We bulked him up his senior year to about 185-188 and obviously he was a great player. The first thing they asked him to do when he got to the NFL was to lose 12 pounds. He’s played his entire career at about 170-175 pounds, which is about the same size as Tavon. Tavon was asking if he needs to get to 180, but I told him I’d rather have him at 170 and be the fastest guy on the field. He’s a little shorter than Tavon, but he came in at about 158. When Tavon came in, he was at about 155.
Throughout the natural progression of the first year, I think Jordan has already added 10 pounds in the last few months. It’s not about size – it’s more about quickness at that position. He’ll be hit by big guys only if they can touch him. He’s a tough kid. I’m not giving him any credit right now; he hasn’t played a down. He likes to play the game. He played at Katy High School (Katy, Texas), one of the most renowned high schools in the entire country and one of the most physical programs in the entire country. He was the second-leading receiver in the city of Houston. I think he’s okay playing football. We recruit guys based on what their film says. He scored 21 touchdowns at one of the best high schools in the country, so the guy can play football. You get him out there, and he’s pretty excited playing hard. I think his helmet popped off, and he got hit in the head by a DB who had a helmet on, which could have been bad, but he just put his helmet back on and got ready for the next down.
On Ivan McCartney in a red jersey
It’s just a hamstring. He’ll be alright.
On the new defense being brought in
You can only play 11 people. There are good schemes in everything. One of the things I was talking to coach Tomlin about was playing the 4-3 as opposed to the 3-4. There are 11 NFL teams running the 3-4. Which scheme is better? I don’t know; they’re both good schemes. The 3-3-5 is a good scheme. The guys here last year did a good job of coaching them up. You’ve got to settle on something. In my opinion, going against the spread, you’re probably giving a little bit of an advantage to being able to cover sideline to sideline. The 4-3, you watch the Giants play, and they look pretty good too. There you have bunch of defensive linemen that know how to rush the passer. We don’t have a tremendous amount of defensive linemen, so you play with what you’ve got and figure out other ways to getting pressure on the quarterback.
Pitt led the nation in sacks last year. If they didn’t lead, they were up in the top two or three. I think that has something to do with the scheme and something with the way they were coached.
On if getting the guys excited to play is most important at this time of year
That’s one of the overall goals of the program. We’ve talked about it a lot. I can assure you if you take a poll from the entire team, there’s a very high percentage of them who look forward to coming into the building to where you’re going to get the most out of them from a study hall perspective, a weightlifting perspective, meetings and practice. No matter what it is, if the guys are excited about coming in, you’re going to get a whole lot out of them. I think we’ve accomplished that. Throughout the course of spring without having a game, if you wear them out, then you’re not going to get a whole lot out of them. I told them after practice today they’re crazy if they didn’t use this day to get better. We had a bunch of meetings and practice time. If you don’t take advantage of that, then there’s something wrong. For the majority, we did get a lot out of it, which is why we hold three practices a week and don’t go back-to-back days and have meetings between practices. You need to have some recovery time and not wear them out. We’re not preparing for a game, but you’re trying to make yourselves, your unit and the team better, so that’s what the overall objective of the spring is. If you break down or get worn out, then you’re not going to get that accomplished.
On what the objective is to accomplish at this point of year
Your goal is to get better. I can’t foresee where we’re going to be at the spring game. There are 11 more practices to gauge that. These guys know what the routine is; they know what their job is. They know what is expected of them. We’ll keep gearing toward getting that accomplished. We’ve got the rest of this week and three more after Spring Break.
On the offense versus the new defense
We’re only using a third of our offense. In fact, we’re really only using a sixth part of it. We’re working toward the third part of the offense. You may go against the defense 100 percent of the time, as long as they’re playing well, they’re getting better. We’re not keeping score out there. It may look good or it may look bad, we’re moving on to the next play. You get a lot of tape on film, you compile it and look at it and try to improve for the next time you go out there.
On the role of Shawne Alston
I’m not sure how big of a role he can handle. Andrew Buie looks really good out there. He’s taking advantage of all the reps that he’s getting and looks pretty good at times. Shawne is a different kind of back. We certainly want to get as much out of him this year as we did the end of last year when he had 20 carries against Clemson. Our goal is to have a bunch of running backs that can give a lot of reps. Shawne plays hard and is physical, but you can’t go like he does on every run. You just can’t. His attitude is good, his mentality is good, he’s giving us good snaps right now which should carry over to the first part of next year.
On Andrew Buie’s play
He’s healthy. For the majority of last year, he wasn’t healthy. One is that he was young and was worn down pretty quick, because he plays hard too. He was only about 165 pounds at one point last season. He’s been working hard and has his size back. He’s about 180 now. He’s playing hard and handling the volume well. He could probably take more snaps.
On experience on the offensive line
The first group looks good. They have a chance to be as good as we’ve had. Joe Madsen is a leader and is doing a fantastic job. He’s a great player. Jeff Braun looks twice as good as he did in camp last year. He’s in better shape, he’s healthy and he understands. With Josh Jenkins coming back, he brings experience. Pat Eger is more confident than he’s been, Quinton Spain is more confident. Those first-level guys are doing good things. It’s a lot easier now. They block now, so it’s a lot easier to run the ball, and it’s a lot easier to throw the ball. When the second guys get in there, it resembles a little bit what it was like a year ago. When you’ve got three guys coming through to the quarterback, it looks like crap. When you hand the ball off to the back, and you’ve got people behind the block, it doesn’t look very good. We go as the offensive line goes.
On the punting game
Corey Smith has been hot and cold, but has developed a bit more consistency. That’s the hardest snap in football. You have to know what you’re doing out there. We’re having to train younger kids to be able to do it. Najee Goode was good with it last year, and Cody Nutter was great on it. We’re trying to find guys and give them experience doing it to replace the guys who did well with it last year. We didn’t have any blocked last year. It was spotty based on the punters having some shanks, but let’s not forget the four against Pitt that went for 65 yards. The eight snaps against Rutgers in some of the worst conditions in the world were good snaps. They were good catches, good punts, and good coverage. We’re not going to say that the punt game was broke based off a couple shanks. You’ve got to coach them up and get them trained.
Cody Clay is doing some snaps. Jerry Cooper is doing some. We signed another kid who’s taking snaps, so it will be an on-going evaluation.
On energy at practices
The energy has been good. That part hasn’t been a problem, which is good to see. The first day in pads, the guys were a bit soft, which we addressed and has since been much more physical.
On what makes him happiest following a practice
There’s a lot of things. There are things you see on tape that confirms some things. Seeing guys take advantage of their opportunity makes me happy. Dante Campbell is a guy who redshirted and was down in the dumps like all redshirt kids are, was on the scout team all year, and then spring hits, and you’re anxious to see how things will work for you. He’s taken advantage of every single rep that he’s had. He looks good. He’s a big target, Geno will throw to him, he blocks well, and he’s a guy we’re thrilled to deal with right now. Seeing guys like that taking advantage of the opportunity is what makes me happy. If the effort’s there, you want to see them get better at what we’re doing schematically and technique-wise. If they don’t take advantage of having four or five hours to show what they can do, then there’s something wrong with them. There’s a couple of them that didn’t, but you can tell the guys who did.
On Cody Clay
You never know what people’s bodies are going to do. For one, he could have blown up and be 280 right now. You can’t tell, and you don’t know. That hasn’t happened to his body. We’re keeping him at inside receiver. Plus, what we did with Tyler Urban last year isn’t something we do a ton of, but is something we can do based on if he’ll line up as a tight end and use his bigger body to block.
Dana Holgorsen, WVU football
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