MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A transcript of WVU football coach Dana Holgorsen’s New Era Pinstripe Bowl news conference:
Opening statement Finals are over, so we’re just now getting into the preparation for the game. Yesterday was our first day that we presented Syracuse to them. We had a good two weeks of getting guys regrouped and refocused on getting through the school aspect of things. We had four or five practices and did a lot of recruiting. The coaches have been on the road for the majority of the time since the Kansas game ended.
Now we regroup, and we’ll be in here all week with nothing to do but football stuff. We will start preparing for Syracuse over the course of the next five days. We’ll let them go home on Dec. 21 to spend four or five days at home for Christmas, then we will meet everybody up in New York on the night of Dec. 25 and have about three or four practices before we play the game.
We’re excited about the game; there is some unfinished business from this season. 8-5 is a heck of a lot different than 7-6. Much like we ended with the Kansas game playing for the seniors, those guys have been through a lot and I respect a lot of the things those guys have done. We have some pretty good football players in that group to the point to where we want to send them out on top. To win eight games sounds a lot better than 7-6.
Stedman (Bailey) will be entering the (NFL) draft; he made that announcement a couple of days ago. We talked about it, and we’re going to treat him like one of the seniors. Truth of the matter is he came in with a lot of them. He came in with Geno (Smith) and Tavon (Austin) and was forced to redshirt that first year, which means he would be a senior at this point anyway. I support him fully. If you put two good years together as a receiver and you’re an underclassman, then you have a chance to do some good things at the next level and that’s what they look for. He’ll be treated as a senior going forward to the bowl game and will play his last game as a Mountaineer up in New York. I support him, and he’ll be a great pro.
With Syracuse, we have some unfinished business as well. We didn’t play well when we went up there and that was the turning point with Geno, as far as what they did defensively. They do have good players, but their scheme got us a little bit. We’ll see how much improvement we made on specific looks. They’re very much a dial up a defense kind of team, so you don’t know what you’re going to get. Seventeen of the first 18 blitzes last year were different, so we have to identify that and get in the right play. He (Smith) has matured a bunch, and from a scheme standpoint, he is going to be able to see that and make some pretty good checks; I feel comfortable about that.
They (Syracuse) have everybody back on offense. They’re a very good offensive football team. That quarterback (Ryan Nassib) just keeps getting better and better. He has worked his way up, much like Geno, to where he is going to be a top draft pick and play at the next level. They have a good running game and have some receivers that can go, and they obviously have a tight end that can catch the ball. We have our work cut out for us defensively to match what they do.
We’re excited about the opportunity. I have been up with the Yankees organization several times. Those guys are tremendous, and the organization is tremendous. They take good care of us. It’ll be a great bowl game with some good events, like spending time in New York City. I polled the team, and I think about 75 percent of our guys have never been to the city, so it’ll be a new and neat experience for them. The actual stadium is a pretty good venue for a football game, believe it or not. It fits in there pretty well. It’s on top of you, so it gives you a pretty good atmosphere. I think we’ll travel well and Syracuse will travel well, which will be fun and entertaining.
On the changes to the defensive staff I’ve made my statement with Daron (Roberts) - he is a great friend, a great person and a great football coach. We appreciate his time here and his effort and energy with everything he was doing, and we wish him luck in his future endeavors.
Joe DeForest is very valuable to our coaching staff and to our football program. He wears many hats; he always has. He is a tremendous football coach and has focused a lot on the safeties, which we have two pretty good ones that have played good football. He brings a bunch of experience from a recruiting standpoint, from a special team’s standpoint, from an associate head coach standpoint and from a next guy in charge standpoint and that will continue.
Keith Patterson has been doing a fantastic job. He is a great defensive coordinator and has been for some time. Instead of having two guys sharing that responsibility, I think it is important for one guy to take the lead, so he will be doing that. It’s easier for that to happen from a linebacker standpoint. When you’re coaching the ‘backers, you’re closer to the front of things and closer to the back aspect of things.
On who will handle the cornerbacks for the bowl game Andrew McGee (graduate assistant) will for now, and we’ll hire someone coming up after the bowl game. That’s something coach Patterson and I are talking about, and coach DeForest is giving his input. We’ll get the right guy in here for a variety of reasons.
Andrew is a really good, bright, young man. When I was at Oklahoma State, I watched him and he is the leader of the FCA guys and is a tremendous kid. He has a bright future and has been working closely with them since he got here. He’ll take the lead, and obviously coach DeForest, because he is in the back end, will spend a lot of time with those guys as well.
On the timing of the coaching staff changes Once the Kansas game was over, whatever was going to happen, there was no sense in wasting time with it. That was giving coach Patterson about two and a half weeks to coach and teach. There is no sense in pushing the pause button when you know you are going to do something at the end of the season. It gave us an opportunity to start moving forward. It happened about 8 a.m. on Sunday after the Kansas game. We have made progress with what the future is going to be and what the vision of the defense is going to look like. We’ll keep moving forward with it. I feel really good about where it is going. Is every problem going to be fixed in a month? Of course not, but we’re going to make progress toward what we want it to look like a year from now.
On if he has seen noticeable changes given the short period of time Not much. Keith has always been a 3-4 multiple attacking, blitzing and doing different coverages. We have been doing specific stuff like that all year. There will be some changes. There will be some noticeable changes. I can tell you what they are, but if you print them, the people up at Syracuse are going to start working on it. We have had good talks, and I like where it is at.
On the players’ statuses in academics I don’t know yet. I will be honest, I don’t know yet. They are back there gathering. It is the last day for people to post their grades. At the end of this day, we will know, but right now, there is no news.
On Syracuse They’re a dial up of a defense. They blitz and get into some crazy stuff. I think we are a lot better both from a coaching standpoint, from a scheme standpoint and from an understanding standpoint. We are a lot better now than last year when we played Syracuse. Again, from a staff standpoint, from a player standpoint and from a scheme standpoint, we understand what we have to do a lot better. If they get into a bunch of crazy stuff, I feel like we are going to have some answers.
On how similar Syracuse will be to last year That is what they do; I doubt they are going to change what they do. They are pretty good at it. They do a good job defensively. They get a lot of tackles for loss, they blitz a lot and they sack the quarterback a good bit. I am glad they don’t have Chandler Jones because he was tough to block. They still do a good job, and they get into the back field a lot. They led the Big East in tackles for loss, they are right up there in sacks and they do a good job in turnovers.
On his relationship with Stedman Bailey He allowed us to coach him. This will be my third guy that is coming out early. He allowed us to coach him. He bought into it, he worked hard, he got out there and he practiced hard, he developed in the weight room and he listened and made plays. His relationship with Geno overcame some of our newness to the program last year, so they were able to be on the same page pretty quick. He is a good football player. He is durable, he is smooth and he has got great hand-eye coordination. I will be curious to see how they test it out. All the NFL people want to know. We don’t 40-yard dash them, and we don’t do any of that stuff here. It is all player development and all of that stuff. I mean, a 40-yard dash is a player development. I will be curious to see how he tests out, which obviously they look at that pretty highly.
On if Stedman came and talked with him about his decision A little bit of both. From a family standpoint, he has a child now. I think the biggest thing is that he has had two tremendous years in a row. Geno is leaving, and his relationship with him probably has something to do with it. We talked about it. I didn’t discourage it. It was on his mind and he wanted to do it, so I don’t think it would be fair for me to try and talk him out of it. If the situation was different and Geno would have redshirted his first year, maybe they would come back for their senior year. I think it is time for him to go, and I support him. I think he will do well. He will represent West Virginia well in years to come.
On bowl prep times It is a little different situation because of the time crunch. Last year, we had an extra week because the game was late. We had that extra week here. We have a plan up until this week where you have to prepare, and then you have to give them breaks. When we convene in New York, it is not going to be the same situation as it was in South Florida. From a weather standpoint and a practice facility standpoint, it was very convenient for us down in Florida, which means that we had more practices. We were down there for about eight nights and had more practices, and it is going to be tough to do that in New York from a travel and logistics standpoint. We are not going to practice as much up there. We will get as many practices in, and the format will be the same just minus several practices and that is just the way it has to be.
On the schedule before the bowl game We will go one practice a day for the next five days. We practiced Friday and Saturday and that was all developmental. We met and lifted Sunday and introduced Syracuse. This week, we will practice five days on Syracuse. We have four more this week.
On what has changed with Syracuse They are opening it up a little bit more. They trust the quarterback more. Their receiver skills are better than they were last year. It just looks like they opened it up a little bit more because they trust him (Nassib) a little bit more, I guess. They are moving the ball well. Shoot, they’re averaging 500 and some yards. Their points don’t add up because they are averaging 29 points a game. Their yards are pretty good. I would assume they trust their quarterback because he just keeps getting better. The better he gets, the more they allow him to do. They are very multiple. They are still getting a two-back tight end set, and they will run it at you and then spread it out; then, they look like our offense some. They will motion some people and then put people in space and go high tempo sometimes.