Head Coach Dana Holgorsen News Conference
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University's Dana Holgorsen addressed the media today at the Milan Puskar Center.
We have 16 practices in and two-a-days are done. We will bring the team up here in the next three mornings to do some lifting or meetings. We have three more practices of camp, No. 17, 18 and 19, which are the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before we break camp. Those are three important practices to continue everyone’s development on all three sides of the ball before we break camp. Saturday is a big day for our guys to move into their dorm rooms or permanent residence. We have a lot of activities that will be going on Saturday and Sunday getting ready for school on Monday, which changes things. We will talk a lot to our team about being able to handle those specific changes.
I am happy with where we are at on all three sides of the ball, especially defensively. Our first group is really coming along, and it is where we have the most experience coming back. First team, we are really happy with, and the motivational level they are playing with is extremely satisfying. Special teams have been a focal point.
Our special teams is not just the kicker, punter and returner. There is a lot that goes into the special teams. You need a lot of depth to be able to be adequate or above average and I like our depth. We have a lot of bodies that will be able to help us on special teams. The actual specialists, I am going to brag on those guys a little bit. (Sophomore kicker) Josh Lambert is doing well, (sophomore long snapper) John DePalma is light years ahead of where he was last year. That is a very under-appreciated position until they are not very good, but he looks very good. Our punters are booming the ball. (Sophomore punter) Nick O'Toole has a strong leg. (Redshirt junior punter) Michael Molinari has done a great job punting and has also been doing a lot of kickoff stuff. (Freshman punter) Hughie (Houston Syverston) is doing great as well and has maybe the strongest leg of all three. We have some competition there between those guys. As far as a returner point of view, we have guys that will be able to do it and look comfortable back there. It is still up for grabs though. We should have enough bodies to have different punt returners than we do kick returners, which is a skill I would like to develop. (Redshirt senior running back) Charles Sims looks good back there, (freshman running back) Wendell Smallwood looks good, (junior wide receiver) Mario Alford, (freshman wide receiver) Shelton Gibson looks good back there and (redshirt sophomore) Ronald Carswell, so we have a lot of bodies. (Freshman cornerback) Daryl Worley is a guy that has been back there quite a bit and has speed and good ball skills.
Injury update, (redshirt freshman offensive lineman) Adam Pankey is still progressing. He is still month-to-month, and we are looking at October before he is back ready to go. A lot of guys are day-to-day. There are several guys in green jerseys, nothing season ending. (Sophomore cornerback) Nana Kyeremeh had successful shoulder surgery and will be out about six months and will be back in spring ball. (Junior wide receiver) Kevin White is day-to-day with a shoulder; (redshirt sophomore wide receiver) Dante Campbell and (sophomore wide receiver) Jordan Thompson have been day-to-day with shoulders but are on schedule to come back and may even be out of their green jerseys today. (Redshirt junior linebacker) Wes Tonkery is day-to-day, as well as (junior linebacker) Jared Barber with a shoulder and neck injury. Any time you are out there banging for the last week, week and a half, you will have some guys with sore shoulders. (Redshirt junior linebacker) Jewone Snow is probably year-to-year it seems like. It seems like he always has something wrong, but he is not out there, and I am not sure if he will ever get back.
From the eligibility standpoint, Isaac McDonald has ben cleared and will be here tomorrow. We are still waiting on Darrien Howard and (junior linebacker) d’Vante Henry still has some personal things he is working on. Will Johnson and Connor Arlia have left the team. Great kids, but they just want to go play. I will release them anywhere that they want to go so they can go get themselves in a position where they can play ball.
On what basis is the defense being evaluated on
It could be in relation to where we were last year, which we definitely are way ahead of where we were. We are talking about many of the same bodies, so we ought to be ahead of where we were last season. It is either that or offensively, which is not where we were last year. That is going to be obvious that offensively we are not where we were last season. That doesn’t mean we can’t be better than last year at the end of the season, it is just going to take some time whenever you are breaking in as many new bodies as we are. I hope, and you don’t know this until you actually start playing, that defensively we are ahead of last year based on coaching, experience and schemes. I hope it is not because we are inadequate on offense. How are you going to know though until you start playing?
On the way the defense is lining up and making it tough on the offense
It is the same scheme. There are going to be some small changes that (defensive coordinator) Keith (Patterson) is going to like to do compared to what (special teams coordinator) Joe (Deforest) liked to do, but it relatively is the same scheme. It is just like us offensively. There are some things that we can do differently this year than we did last year. They are going to be small differences that you really won’t be able to tell from the stands. I like to think that these guys are just a year more comfortable in what we are asking them to do. (Sophomore safety) Karl (Joseph) and (redshirt senior safety) Darwin (Cook) are two experienced guys at the safeties, and those guys need to disguise things. They cannot give away what they are going to be doing or offensively we will be able to see it and get in better plays. I think that the familiarity with the defense, the scheme and playing experience have made them more comfortable and are learning things a little bit sneakier.
On displeasures with the inside receivers
We are going to move (freshman wide receiver) Daikiel Shorts inside today. You do not move guys unless you are displeased with what you are looking at. I will defend each and every one of those guys. You are talking about (first-year junior college) Mario Alford, who has been on campus for two weeks. (Redshirt freshman) Devonte Mathis and (redshirt freshman) Vernon Davis are both freshman that have never taken collegiate snaps. Shelton Gibson and Jacky Marcellus both have been on campus for only a little bit and are true freshmen. I have excuses for each and every one of those guys. (Redshirt sophomore) Dante Campbell and (sophomore) Jordan Thompson have not practiced in well over a week, week and a half. I have plenty of excuses on why it looks bad, of which none of us want to hear them. I do not want hear them, I do not want to look at them, you do not want to hear them, you may write bout them, probably, but it is what it is. We need to get guys in here that we trust and like. Which one of the guys I just mentioned is going to develop into All-Big 12 performers? I don't know yet. There is talent there, and they just need to keep playing. We are not discouraging them. With that said, we play a game in two weeks and we have to get guys ready to play.
On running backs playing in the slot
We have done some of that. (Redshirt senior) Charles Sims could be our best inside receiver right now. We have done a little bit of that with him, a little bit with (junior) Andrew Buie and (junior) Dustin Garrison. (Freshman) Wendell (Smallwood) can play inside, (junior) Dreamius (Smith) is probably not that type of a back or inside receiver. The other thing is with (redshirt sophomore wide receiver) Cody Clay, who is day-to-day with a hamstring that is no big deal, you can move him to inside receiver. We have worked (sophomore linebacker) Garrett Hope and (freshman wide receiver) Elijah Wellman as inside receivers as well, just trying to find some sort of reliability. We just need to figure out what the plan is.
On evolution of Holgorsen at WVU
Shoot, I don’t know. I still coach the same way. I don’t evaluate myself like that. I’d like to think that the entire program is a little bit more organized and structured. More guys understand how we do things. It’s a natural progression. Whether it’s a good or a bad thing time will tell. The only way to gauge that is with improvement with wins and losses.
On redshirt senior Charles Sims and position he will play
He’s a good player. He’s very well rounded. His ball skills are good. He’s setting up blocks, and he’s a good team player. He’s got an abundance of ability and a great attitude. He’s fitting in really well with the team. I’m extremely glad that he’s here.
There’s only one of him. We can’t clone him and put him in two different spots at the same time. That’s just fun as a coach to be able to do that, to have guys like that who can do different things. You can start scheming. He’s much like Tavon (Austin). There aren’t many guys who can play several different spots. They’re hard to come by. I’m not comparing him to Tavon at all. Having guys that you can put in different spots without having a year’s worth of reps to get them what you want them to do, it makes it easier. It’s a better game plan.
On knowing starters by end of camp
You want to do it now. If we did it a week from now I’d start to get antsy. We’re starting to build the depth chart. The first thing is developing a two deep, which we’re pretty close to. Once you develop a two deep, then you can let those guys battle it out for another week before you name starters. Even when you go into the first game there are specific positions such as quarterback and center that will have starters that will play the whole game. But then there are other spots such as corner where you might want to have three players rotating play. Just because you’re not a starter doesn’t mean you’re not going to play a considerable amount.
There are going to be 50 guys that are going to go into the first game knowing that they’re taking snaps one way or another whether it’s second team stuff, special team stuff or a rotation that we developed that we haven’t really discussed yet. I want to get through camp and have a pretty good idea of what the two deep is going to be and who those 50 players are that we’re counting on. The next week is to get starters situated on special teams, offense, and defense. Then we figure out who those other guys are going to be in the rotation. I think we’re on track for all that.
On true freshmen
We haven’t talked about it yet. (Freshman wide receiver Daikiel) Shorts is a true freshman that will play. He was here in the spring. (Freshman running back) Wendell Smallwood is one that will play. He’s looked really good at times. I’d be shocked if (freshman cornerback) Daryl Worley didn’t have a big role on defense or special teams. (Freshman safety) Jeremy Tyler has really shown some things that are impressive. (Freshman linebacker Al-Rasheed) Benton is a 250-pound mature kid that has shown some signs of life. I think that’s all the true freshmen. We’ve got a bunch of junior college guys that potentially we might redshirt. (Junior wide receiver Mario) Alford shows signs of showing some really good things. (Junior wide receiver) Kevin White is not redshirting. He is a big guy that’s ready to go. (Junior running back) Dreamius Smith is showing some good things.
On Elijah Wellman
We don’t know what role he will play. We’re still about a week away from that. Moving Garrett Hope to fullback has alleviated some of our need for him there, but he’s going to be a great player for us. Whether we want to waste a year on him being a third team fullback we don’t know. That decision hasn’t been made.
On the starting quarterback
We’re close to figuring that out. We’ve got three more days to be fair to all of them and let them play. I’ve said it since the beginning of camp, if you have a bad day you need to be prepared to come out and have a good day. I anticipate that by the end of practice on Saturday being 100% sure of the direction we’re going to go in.
(Junior quarterback) Paul (Millard) and (redshirt-freshman quarterback) Ford (Childress) have elevated their game. Is that because there’s another competitive body or because they’ve had all spring and all summer and seventeen days of camp to take reps? I think they’ve gotten better, which isn’t making our job any easier.
On kickoff position
We don’t have one yet. (Sophomore punter Nick) O’Toole’s been booming the ball as well as (redshirt junior kicker Michael) Molinari. We haven’t figured out which guy that’s going to be yet.
On redshirt-sophomore wide receiver KJ Myers
KJ’s been playing really well. He’s one of the guys that I’ve got a big plus by. (Junior wide receiver) Kevin (White) had two or three really good days, and dinged his shoulder up and was out for a few days. KJ stepped in and took over so I don’t know who it’s going to be.
On reference to lack of star power in the Big 12
My reference to lack of star power in the Big 12 is about guys who don’t have a lot of numbers coming back. There are going to be several guys in the Big 12 that are going to step up and be All-American receivers. I don’t know who they are. I hope it’s KJ. That would be a pleasant surprise. I’ve said it before. We’ve got some guys who are going to do it. I just don’t know who they’re going to be yet.
On freshman wide receivers
We haven’t made the decision yet. All these young guys are the same. They show up two or three times then they disappear two or three times. (Freshman wide receiver) Shelton (Gibson) is a very talented kid and so is (freshman wide receiver) Jacky (Marcellus). Jacky had that knee injury and Shelton had the knee injury that kept him on the sideline for a week or a week and a half. I think the future is bright for all of those guys, but how quick they pick it up and how quick they will get on the field and make plays, we don’t know yet.
On Holgorsen’s leadership comments
All that falls on my shoulders. It was taken way out of context. The bottom line is I was referencing our 2012 team not having enough leaders and that’s one thing that we’ve taken into account this year. We’ve been working on that since January. We are developing a whole room full of leaders. That’s how you win a championship. You don’t win a championship with just one or two guys that you look to. You win one with a whole room full of leaders that take the bull by the horns and say we’re going to do some special things. I like where we’re at right now.
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