MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Coach Dana Holgorsen addresses the media prior to practice No. 8 on Thursday, Aug. 7.
Just a quick update of where we’re at – we’ve had seven practices. Three of them have been full contact. I’ve been pleased with the amount of reps that we’re getting and the work we’re getting. Based on recommendations on how to practice this afternoon, we will go uppers. It will be more controlled. You won’t see an Oklahoma drill, but you’ll still see guys running around, doing special teams and doing some drills. We’ll probably do an 11-on-11 drill a little earlier today so you guys (the media) can see it. But other than that, we won’t (tackle) to the ground. We won’t go live, but we will still be out there for about three hours and get some work done. That’s kind of where we’re at. Any specifics – I would be happy to elaborate on. But at this point, the biggest thing is guys are starting to get really sore. That’s just camp – you have to go through it. We’re trying to identify guys who can maintain mental toughness when they’re tired and mental toughness when they’re sore, hurting and it’s hot. That’s an evaluation process that we are in the middle of, and it will continue for the next week and a half to start identifying depth charts, who we can count on and who are the main guys. We want to know who’s improved and who can do it when things are hard. We all know that games are hard, and if you can’t show that you can do in practice, then it’s going to be tough to get out there and doing during games. That’s kind of where we’re at. I’ll take some more specifics if anyone has questions.
On how the depth chart is coming along
I feel good about it offensively and where we’re at with that. There are some guys – who we have been able to count on in the past – who are continuing to show us that. We have to develop a sixth lineman, a seventh lineman, an eighth lineman and a couple of backup receivers. Who’s going to get the specific reps at running back? All that stuff, we will continue to monitor that. Defensively, it’s probably a little trickier because we have more bodies – more guys who are available to identify who does what right and who doesn’t. It’s a constant evaluation. To set a depth chart – doesn’t mean anything is set in stone for the rest of the year, as we all know. We have harped a lot on building depth, which we are. When guys get the starting nod, and they go down, who are the guys we can count on to go in there and perform at a high level to win games. The two-deep is important. It’s not just who are the actual starters. It’s who is going to be able to go in and make plays, as well.
On if the staff is switching things up at this point in camp or sticking to the plan
Stick to the plan. We do different things each day. We focus on situations each day. We’ve been through two third-down periods, we’ve touched on red zone goal line situations yesterday, and we’ve touched on every of the special teams units – that’s a day-to-day thing. Assignment and technique are things we are harping on right now, especially when things get tough. The injury report is growing, which is normal. It happens that way every year, but who are the guys who have the nicks, bruises or sores – whatever it may be – and still be able to go out there and remember what they’re supposed to do. My favorite part of the day is when we got out there at 4:30 p.m., when it’s typically its hottest, we go out there when they’ve been inside for three hours, and it’s hot. They’re sore – who can rev the engines up and get going. That’s what I look forward to everyday – who can get going and do it. It’s routine. We’re not going to shake things up too much. I want these guys to understand what to expect and to go out there and be able to self-start themselves and get going. We’ll change up what the specific situations are each and every day, but from a routine point of view, they’ll stay the same.
He looks good. He’s a tightly wound guy. He’s muscular, and he’s not your average-looking kicker. With that said, we have to be careful about how much we use him, so to speak. (Assistant) Coach (Joe) DeForest does a great job of this – he makes decisions on how much they kick. He keeps tab on that, which is very important. Something I’ve learned while being with him is that you can’t just throw the kickers a bag of balls and say ‘go kick. I’ll see you in two hours.’ You have to be careful on how much they’re kicking, how often they’re kicking, what they’re stretching routine is and what they’re recovery routine is. We want to make sure they don’t overkick. (Kicker/Punter Michael) Molinari in the past has overkicked, and it has affected his performance. We gave (Kicker) Josh (Lambert) the day off yesterday, and we will give him the day off today as well. He’s been doing a lot of kicking. In our red zone goal line scrimmage that we had, I think he was six-of-seven on field goals, if I’m not mistaken. He kicked the ball through the uprights pretty good. What his distance is? I don’t know. That’s one thing I’ll do before every game – every game after warmups, Coach DeForest and I talk and he says ‘when you’re going that way, you’re good from the 35-yard line, and when you’re going that way, you’re good from the 38-yard line.’ That’s how I gauge it, and if we’re on that number, I’ll send them in there and say ‘go kick.’
He’s still learning. The offseason was great for him. He’s twitchy, he’s fast, he’s physical and he’s motivated. But he’s out of control. He’s learning what to do at times. He’s a prime example of when things get hard – because of fatigue, because of soreness or because of emotion – he’s got to be able to control all of that stuff. He ran with the ones yesterday, but he blew some gaskets, too. It’s a constant process of continuing to teach him what to do. Not only when things are good, anyone can run fast and hit hard when things are good, but if things are not so good, you have to be able to be under control both mentally and physically.
On Holgorsen’s relationship with assistant coach Shannon Dawson
I give him more leeway than (former Texas Tech head coach) Mike Leach gave me, so to speak. I was offensive coordinator under Coach Leach (at Texas Tech) for a long time. It poses its challenges. The thing with Shannon is that we truly speak the same language. I recruited him. He played quarterback for me at Mississippi College four and a half centuries ago. Since then, we’ve always been in the same circles. He was with (former coach) Hal Mumme for several years. He came out to Texas Tech (when I was there) pretty much every summer. He spoke the same language. When I went to Houston, he was at Stephen F. Austin, which was an hour away, so he came down a hundred times, and we would just sit and talk football. We evolved kind of at the same time. One of the things that I always wanted to do – I did this at Houston, and I did this at Oklahoma State and I’ve done it here – is run it offensively, but be able to step in different rooms and not neglect the quarterbacks. I’ve always had a guy who has drilled the quarterbacks. I’ve always had a guy who, when I step out of the room, can keep that meeting going. There’s constant learning, so if I need to step into a different room, I can.
He’s been good. We have a pretty good battle going at free safety with him and (freshman safety) Dravon Henry
. Jeremy is a year into it. That’s a prime example of a guy who understands a little more what we’re doing now than he did a year ago. It’s also another example of being able to recruit at a pretty high level to be able to plug younger guys in who can compete. Even though they’re a year behind, they can step in and compete. I’ve been happy with the way Jeremy is doing. He looks good. He’s running around good, and he’s making some plays. (Redshirt sophomore safety) Jarrod Harper
– same thing – he wasn’t quite ready to play a couple years ago, and he got thrown into the fire last year. He’s way more sound. Not only assignment wise, but technique as well. To be able to build depth in the secondary to plug guys in who actually play the position we’re asking them to play in a game is great. That happened a bunch last year. We’re plugging guys in – not to make excuses – at different positions than they played the previous seven or eight games.
On how common changes are for a head coach’s philosophies and how a coach must adapt
I think it’s constant and never ending. It’s just what change is. I was on the treadmill, believe it or not, yesterday, and I was thinking of our Thursday and Friday game routine and maybe how we could change it a little bit to make it a little bit better. I asked the staff how they’ve done it in the past and to make some phone calls. If they’re anything we can do to make it better, I’m open to change. I like routine, but I’ve always been open to change, whether it’s scheme or practice schedules. I don’t like to change it on a day-to-day basis. I like to think things through. That’s probably my inner Mike Leach coming out, as far as researching things to figure out if there are better ways of doing it. And if there are, don’t be afraid to change it. I think you have to think it through and research it. You don’t want to just change for the sake of change.
On freshman quarterback William Crest returning punts
He did it in high school to stay in shape. Ball skills for a quarterback are important. Try catching punts from (former center) Pat Eger. The snap could be anywhere. It’s all over the place. William has extremely large hands, which is a great sign of being able to spin the ball and have hand-eye coordination. He used to do it in high school just to kind of stay in shape. The first practice - I looked down there, and he was catching punts. I was watching him, and I’d be darned if it didn’t look pretty good. We need a punt returner so let’s see what you can do. He likes doing it, and so I said go do it. Would it be an option if he is the best one? Absolutely. If he was our starting, every-down quarterback, that’d be pretty silly (to have him return punts). You obviously want your starting quarterback to hone in on being the every-down starting quarterback. If he’s not the starting quarterback, and you have a luxury to have a little depth at QB, if he’s the best on returning punts, then why not.
On Holgorsen’s reasoning for being in support of tougher nonconference schedules
I think that’s where it is headed. My only worry is that I think we should do it, but it would be silly for us to play 12 teams that are power-five, and a specific university in the Big 12 is going to play none. If one is going to do it, everyone should do it. The reason I support it is because the ultimate goal is to win your conference. In college football playoff system, and the way it is aligned – we’re fortunate to have a specific individual who happens to be my boss on the committee as well – there have probably been some talks on where the future is headed. You can see based on who we have scheduled, I’m in favor of playing regional opponents for our fan base. The challenges of the Big 12 from a geography standpoint has been very well documented. It doesn’t affect us one bit. As coaches and players, it doesn’t affect us. For the fan base, I think everyone would be pretty excited about regional opponents who they’re used to playing.
On freshman quarterbacks adjusting to the speed of the college game and how freshman quarterback William Crest has been adjusting
I’ve got receivers whose heads are spinning. You can’t even coach offensive linemen at this point as freshmen. William goes in there at some points and just doesn’t know what he’s doing, and it still looks good. The biggest challenge with William is that his expectations of himself are extremely high, and he’s extremely competitive. He wants to please, he wants to learn, and he wants to do good. It just doesn’t look good at times. It takes time to be able to understand. He’s ahead of the curve as a freshman quarterback. He’s way ahead of the curve mentally. He’s ahead of the curve physically. With that said, he still has a long ways to go. I don’t want people to get too excited about it right now. He’s still got a long ways to go. I’ve mentioned it before – there is a reason why the two previous Heisman trophy winners redshirted as true freshman. We have the luxury of having a starting quarterback, Clint (Trickett), who looks great. He’s doing everything right from a leadership point of view to an understanding of the offense – the signals, the communication, the progression and the checks. He is light years ahead of where he was last year. We’ve got a good starting quarterback. We’ve got some quality backups. That’s why we practice. William is seven practices into it. 14 practices into it – he’ll be in an even better spot.
On how many more receivers he wants to see in the rotation
Three more. We need at least three more. (Wide receiver) Jordan Thompson
is having his best camp. I feel silly saying that, since he’s been Mr. Camp and Mr. Spring guy. He his playing at a different level than he has. He’s been great. We’re still looking for two wideouts. We don’t have two wideouts who are established yet. The better the backups get, the better off we’re going to be.
It’s shame that he played last year. He should not have had to play last year. That’s just a shame that he played his 20 snaps, or whatever he did. Because of our lack of depth at that position, he had to get in there and play. It’s a shame he had to do that. He should be a redshirt freshman who’s in his first camp right now. If you have expectations of redshirt freshmen who haven’t been in camp before, it’s probably still not fair. I see him – good kid, trying hard – but he is still a ways away. He needs to keep progressing.
On senior associate head coach Tom Bradley
He understands the game. He understands kids and understands the continuity aspect of things. There is no program in the country that had more continuity than what they did (at Penn State). It probably will never happen again. The importance of communication and getting to know your kids as well as you can – he adds to what we’ve been trying to do for the last year and a half.
To me, it’s about knowledge and the relationship you’re building with your guys. To be quite frank, no one gives a crap about what quarterbacks I’ve coached. It’s all about what the next one does. It may help in recruiting a little bit, but it doesn’t help with the expectations of the season moving forward. You have to use your experiences and your knowledge, how you interact with other coaches and how you interact with the kids What are you doing to prepare them to be successful – that’s what counts. Tom is doing good job, and I think the rest of the coaches are as well.