|Coach Dana Holgorsen encourages his team during a game earlier this season.
|All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
Program development is on the mind of West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen as the Mountaineers take the weekend off before wrapping up the regular season on Saturday, Nov. 30, at Milan Puskar Stadium against Iowa State.
“We’ve got 30, 40 guys on our team that are either redshirting or are just not ready to play yet because they’re young,” Holgorsen told our Tony Caridi during Wednesday’s United Bank Playbook segment
for the website. “They need to get out and practice. We’re going to coach them hard and teach them and try and get them better at being college football players.”
Holgorsen admits that he sometimes forgets about some of the younger players in the program because of the grind of preparing for each week’s opponent.
“You don’t really pay attention to guys like (linebacker) Al-Rasheed Benton
and (wide receiver) Jacky Marcellus
– guys that are young that need to be coached and need to develop in order for us to get where we need to be,” he said.
This year, West Virginia is in the unusual situation of not having the month of December to prepare for a bowl game, which means Holgorsen can turn that into a positive by getting out on the road much earlier than before and helping with the program’s recruiting efforts.
“Here in about two weeks it goes into a contact period, which I’ve never been able to go out in December because I’ve been focused on our team going to a bowl game,” he said. “I’ve got 14 days in December that I can get out there and try and sell our program.”
This weekend, Holgorsen said a number of West Virginia assistants are going out around the country looking for players to add to the roster in February.
“I can’t do recruiting right now,” he said. “I’ll leave that up to the assistants to do the evaluation part of it. I will take this weekend to go and meet with some people to do some fundraising stuff to try and advance the program, because we need to get better.”
During his Tuesday afternoon news conference, Holgorsen touched on some of the day-to-day stuff that needs to get better to make West Virginia University a much more attractive destination for Big 12-caliber football players.
“There’s a list – and I don’t think I’m being unreasonable with the requests that I’m asking for,” Holgorsen said. “We’re working hard on trying to get out there and raise money that we need to be able to make some of this stuff a reality.
“No. 1 was the weight room, and we got that accomplished,” Holgorsen continued. “You have to be able to meet appropriately, which we can’t. And you need to be able to practice appropriately, which we can’t. That is where we are headed.”
One improvement that would really help West Virginia’s practice situation is an artificial playing surface for its outdoor practice field. Right now, the team can only use the grass field sporadically because of the Mountain State’s unpredictable fall climate.
“Everyone says we don’t have the space because we live on a mountain, well that’s not true,” said the coach. “We have the space, and we use that practice field six times per year. What are we doing? You shouldn’t have to practice on your game field. Nobody else does. So we have the space, and we need to be able to utilize it and the only way, with the climate and the maintenance, to do it is with a turf field, so that’s in our plans. It’s all about being able to raise the appropriate funds to be able to pay for it.”
Holgorsen said having a grass practice field is not that big of a deal these days.
“I think it’s very overrated,” he said. “If we’re going to play on real grass, you don’t have to practice on real grass. It’s just about having a proper surface to be able to get your work done. And if it’s real grass, that’s fine. I’m comfortable with it as long as it holds up. But right now that grass can’t hold up. If you’re on it when it’s wet, then you’re tearing it up and you can’t use it.”
As for the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility, that’s an entirely different issue altogether. Dedicated 15 years ago in 1998, the 75,000-square-foot structure was the first time WVU used a “design-build” concept to construct a facility, and while the primary goal of building an indoor practice facility was achieved, some key features had to be eliminated to keep the project under budget – specifically additional space, or lack thereof.
“If you want to use it the way people want to be able to use your indoor facility, then safety is key,” said Holgorsen. “You need runoff, you need proper length and if you want to do the kicking game in there then you need it to be a little higher. We use it for some offseason stuff, but it needs to be a bit more functional.”
Overall, Holgorsen said progress is being made on all fronts, even though it hasn’t shown up in the win column right now.
“This is going to be my fourth recruiting class. The first one was three-quarters done before I got here and done in the Big East,” he explained. “The second one was half done selling the Big East and the second half we could start talking about the Big 12 for the first time.
“Last year was 100 percent talking about the Big 12,” he said. “The depth is building. The numbers are getting right. We’re to the point where we’ll have a full roster for the first time since I’ve been here.”