Football: Assistant Coaches on Spring Practice
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University assistant football coaches met with the media today to discuss spring practice.
Running Backs Coach Robert Gillespie
On the progress the team has made with injuries
The guys have done a really good job with the lack of depth right now. It has been really good for some of those young guys to get some reps. Shawne (Alston) has been a guy who has done well, because he has fought through. He is a little sore and has been banged up, but has done a good job of fighting through and coming to practice every day. (Andrew) Buie is a little dinged up and has a sore neck, but the next guy has to step up and be ready to play. It’s been good so far.
On Ryan Clarke’s play this spring
Unfortunately, he got his ankle hurt last week, but I think we saw enough of what he can do. He definitely got better this spring. Hopefully, he can get better and participate in the spring game, but if not, he definitely made strides and will continue to get better. His fundamentals are very good, and he’s had a phenomenal spring so far.
What has he (Clarke) done this spring to show he can carry the ball again?
He definitely showed that if he had to, he could carry the ball. Hopefully, guys will stay healthy enough that in the fall he won’t have to. As a staff and as his position coach, I feel very good about putting him out there and letting him run the ball. He got better this spring and became a better blocker and that will be his role in this offense.
On Donovan Miles in shifting over to offense
Donovan has done a really good job. He is a very unselfish player and an older guy. He just wanted to get on the field. It was something that Coach Holgorsen and the defensive guys tried to figure out—who was a bigger body that they could stand to lose and right now, we have some younger guys at linebacker. Donovan was really willing to come over. He has done a really good job, just because he wants to play football. He wants to get on the field, and it matters to him. He’s done a really good job. I’m glad to have him.
Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers Coach Shannon Dawson
How have you been able to keep the energy up at practice?
We let them have fun. That’s the one thing. I was talking to Tavon about it today on the side at practice and that’s the one thing he mentioned was that it seems fun out here. I think coach Holgorsen will tell you this too, is that we try to let kids have fun at practice. That’s the only way that we feel like we can get what we want accomplished. It can’t be hating life out at practice. You have to let those guys fly around and have fun. Obviously, when the game comes it is a different set of rules, but you have to let them have some amount of fun.
On finding the guys you want to be No. 1 and No. 2 at the depth chart
I feel good about our two deep right now all around. I feel like we have three guys at some spots. Two deep I am pleased with those guys this spring. The new guys are playing well, and we’re playing pretty solid.
On the play of Jordan Thompson
He’s a smart kid. The bottom line is that he came from a successful program at Katy. They play a high caliber of football. Those coaches ask a lot of those kids, and those kids know football that leave there. When we were evaluating, that was one positive through the evaluation process, because we knew the kid was going to be a smart kid, a program kid and pick up football quick and he did. He’s talented.
How do you keep the energy up?
It’s hard because our practices are the same every day. There is a lot of monotony that takes place after 12 or 13 practices of doing the same thing every day. It’s our job as coaches in the meeting rooms and individual relationships to let those guys know that as it goes on we might make practices a little shorter and do some more competition type of stuff that they like. They have to understand, that we’re doing this for a reason. They have to understand that this is what it takes to do good. There’s a little bit of monotony to it, no doubt.
Quarterbacks Coach Jake Spavital
On communication at this point in the spring
The communication keeps getting better. It is year two in this offense, and Geno is giving the same signal to Tavon, Stedman and J.D. It gets to the point where they even stop signaling. They know what is going to happen and get on the same page and go with it. The signals are getting more secretive, and it’s pretty neat, because sometimes I have no idea what they’re calling, but have an idea of what they’re trying to do.
Have other groups experienced communication like this before?
Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon were the same in that sometimes they just knew and didn’t even have to signal each other. I don’t know what it was, but it just worked. I never try to interfere with it, if they are on the same page.
On Millard as Geno’s backup
Paul (Millard) had a great practice today. He’s at the point where he can do anything. He can make all the throws and all the checks and I feel completely comfortable putting him in the game right now, and this offense will continue to do what it does.
Ideal situation on whether to redshirt (Ford) Childress
More than likely—it all depends. You don’t want to wish anything bad to happen to Geno, but if something were to happen then obviously we can’t redshirt him. With Geno there and Paul (Millard) where he’s at, it would be good for Ford (Childress) to sit there and keep learning and learning from Geno and Paul. Eventually, he will be competing for the starting role after Geno leaves.
On Geno in a leadership position
Geno is great. He gets a little too confident at times, but he’s doing great. He can actually go and coach the receivers up and coach the running backs up, because he’s repped so many times that he knows where that receiver needs to be and where that running back needs to be. He can actually focus on them sometimes. He’ll actually work out ‘I want you to go there if that happens or move that way if that happens.’ He is actually a coach out there at times.
Offensive Line Coach Bill Bedenbaugh
In year two, what are they doing now that they weren’t doing before
Playing physical. Again, that is one thing as much as you want to say as a coach, go out there and play physical, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, and you don’t really grasp it and understand the techniques, it’s hard to play physical. Now, they are playing physical and getting after people and really finishing. They understand the offense and techniques we are trying to teach them and starting to play really physical.
On Jeff Braun as a different player this spring
He really is. The thing with him is confidence. He is in a position right now that is his natural position. In the outside world, you think you can move from one position to another and be a great player, but that’s not the case. Some people are more natural on the left side and some people are more natural on the right side. His best position and most natural position is right guard and center. He’s comfortable and confident where he is now.
[Last year] We would work him at right guard at times, because we had to move guys around, but he was a different player at right guard. It is one of those things that we had to keep him at left guard, and it’s a different position. He’s back, and he’s where he needs to be.
On the depth right now
(Curtis) Feigt is doing some good things. (Nick) Kindler is doing some good things. They are not where they need to be, but nobody is. That’s one thing as a staff is we demand perfection, and everybody is trying to get there. Those are the two guys that have shown up to help us.
Defensive Coordinator Joe DeForest
On deciding where Defensive End Tyler Anderson will play
It’ll be based on who we’re playing, and the scheme we have that week. It’ll be a week to week thing in the fall. It can also be a package within the game.
On the leadership of the linebackers
(Jared) Barber and (Isaiah) Bruce have taken the lead there, but they’re all so young. We sat in there as a staff and realized how young our defense is, and it’s amazing that they’re all freshman, redshirt freshman, or sophomores. They have a lot to learn, but coach does a great job with them, just like coach Slaughter does, and I think coach Patterson will have the right guys by fall.
On Big 12 play
We’re trying to teach scheme right now, but going against our offense is the best scout team we can play against entering the Big 12 – we get to go against one of the best offenses in the country. It will simulate what we’re going to see probably eight weeks out of the year.
On missing tackles
We miss way too many tackles. We’re going against some really skilled players, but as a defense as a whole we’re not a good tackling football team, and that’s something we need to work on.
They’re in the right place for the most part, but they have to execute their tackle technique better, understand leverage, and understand the sideline, and understand that their teammates are on the other side of them, and not overextend.
On tackling WVU’s receivers
I wouldn’t want to tackle them (Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey). He (Austin) makes people miss going backwards, I’ve never seen a guy like that – I’m glad he’s on our team.
On the style of the defense
We’re going to blitz a lot, and try to bring in a fourth, or a fifth, or a sixth guy 80 percent of the time. What that does is hopefully get the ball out of the quarterback’s hand quicker. When you attack the quarterback, he has to react quicker, and hopefully that will give us the chance to create more turnovers.
Co-Defensive Coordinator Keith Patterson
On Linebacker Jared Barber
He’s one of those young men that just does all of the things that it takes to be a good football player. He’s tough. The bottom line is that to be a leader, you have to be able to make plays on the field.
Isaiah Bruce being a freshman, and Jared Barber, and all those guys, I was kind of taken back, because I had forgotten. After you spend time around him (Barber), he’s pretty low key and seems very mature. Like I said, he just does the things that it takes to be a successful player at the Division I level.
On being able to switch players between positions
It helps provide depth, but you hate to bump guys back and forth this early in the system, because it sets them back a little bit. Within our sub-packages its fine, but when you’re in a phase, it’s tough because now all of a sudden a call that’s coming from the boundary means one thing, and all of a sudden you’re on the other side of the field, and it means something else. That takes a lot of focus to be able to handle that, and some guys can, some guys can’t. It makes it a little bit tougher on them, but there’s no doubt it means depth, and provides versatility in your defense.
On Linebacker Josh Francis
He’s extremely explosive with all that speed, energy, and agility - we just have to get it all working together with the mechanics of pass rush techniques. There’s going to be people that can just run right by, but very few. At some point, you’re going to have to learn a pass rush technique, and I see him working extremely hard at that.
Defensive Line coach Erik Slaughter
On Defensive End Tyler Anderson
He’s a buck. He’ll play defensive end in certain situations and against certain personnel. We won’t put him on the field as a defensive end against two backs, or a tight end and two backs, or in running formations – he will still play buck in those situations. What I’ve seen from him is he’s extremely athletic, very coachable, and he plays extremely hard.
Everything happens a little quicker when your hand is on the ground at defensive end, or when you’re on the line of scrimmage. But the way they played last year here, those guys wound up on the line of scrimmage from time to time. Really, the guys that were the best pass rushers I ever had never played defensive line; you have guys that are athletes that can get up there, and learn how to rush the quarterback.
On the progress of spring practice
Well, I feel good about it, but we’re never going to be satisfied. There are always things you can do better and ways you can improve. While we’re happy with the progress we’ve made, we’re nowhere near where we want to be.
On it being a young defense
We’re young, no doubt about it. We will lose two, and we’re adding four new guys coming in as freshman, and Imarjaye (Imarjaye Albury) is already here. If we can continue to recruit the way that they recruited here last year, and keep adding class on class, then we’ll have a lot of depth out there – that would be great.
On the new guys coming in and playing
They may have to, that’s just part of college football today. I’ve seen them on film, but I don’t know them personally, and have never seen them in person; I’m not ready to say whether they will play or not. If they can help us win, then they’ll play.
On Defensive Lineman Imarjaye Albury
I don’t know anything about his high school program. I know they won a lot of games, but just in college football the daily expectations of the classroom, meetings, and on the field – it’s just a grind that he’s going to have to push through.
Big 12 Championship Report 3
Mountaineers Speak on CNN
Big 12 Championship Report 2
Big 12 Championships Report
Harrison Musgrave strikes out 14 in TCU victory
Around the Horn with Randy Mazey