MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Coach Dana Holgorsen addresses the media prior to practice No. 14 on Thursday, Aug. 14.
Okay, I’m all out of statements, so we will open it straight up to questions and let Mr. Nesbitt go first… Next question please. I really appreciate you guys that are here today. I thought we had a pretty good one (press conference) on Monday, and we will continue to build a great working relationship and provide you with as much as information as possible. With that said, that’s get started. Today practice No. 15, half way over. We ended up having one two-a-day, but the days of the two-a-days in the past where everyone looks forward to camp ending are long gone. We have uppers practice today. We will go full pads, live tomorrow. We will go scrimmage Saturday morning and then camp ends. The guys will move into the dorms and all the students will be back and then we will have the luxury of practicing our game week. We have the mop game next Saturday, and then the real thing the week after that. I like where we stand right now. We have pretty much everything in. Trying to get them back and healthy at this point, but we still have to keep moving forward which is a good healthy practice tomorrow and a pretty good scrimmage on Saturday. All joking aside that is kind of where we’re at. So I’ll take some questions now.
On the evaluation of starting positions
A corner spot. We are still looking for a starting corner. (Sophomore) Daryl Worley
has established that spot. (Junior safety) KJ is just now coming back, so KJ Dillon
is getting back under the swing of things. Linebacker, we have battles going on. (Senior) Brandon (Golson) is going to be in a green jersey again today, should get cleared in about another week or so. (Redshirt, senior Nick) Kwiatkoski has been out for about a week so that’s left. (Redshirt freshman linebacker) Al-Rasheed Benton
and (redshirt junior linebacker) Edward Muldrow
will get a bunch of snaps here, so what the rotation is going to be right there I don’t think we know yet. Same thing that is happening on the D-line. I think we’re a good, solid two-deep on defense. I just don’t know who the starters are, and I don’t know what the rotations are going to be yet.
On evaluating the running back position
Still figuring it out. (Senior running back) Dreamius (Smith) had a good day a couple days ago. The same thing is going to be there. Whoever we put down on paper as far as who the starter is, I don’t think that is going to be an indication of how many reps they’re going to get. Whoever gets the hot hand, whatever our game plan is going to be – those guys are versatile, they can do different things so everybody wants to see the starters of who we march out there, but I think what’s probably more important is how many snaps they are going to get throughout the course of the game. I don’t know the answer to that yet.
On changes at football camp
To answer your question, yes. Everybody has the same amount of days that they can tackle and have live contact and all that, which is about the same amount that we did last year. I’ll tell you what we did different this year – It’s what’s going to happen next week. As far as last year, we had a pretty heavy first school week – Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Those five days were pretty heavy, and I felt like we were tired going into game week, so what we are going to do is practice a true game week next week. It will be just like it will be the next week as far as a heavy Tuesday and still put pads on and practice Wednesday, and then we are going to teach them how to practice Thursday, how to practice Friday, how to travel Friday and then how to have a game day on Saturday. I think that we will get our legs underneath us a little bit better.
On frustration from last year
It was miserable. (Assistant coach (defensive coordinator/linebackers)) Tony (Gibson) and I were talking about this the other day. I don’t anticipate those dynamics ever happening again, in the next 30 years of coaching or however long I am fortunate enough to be able to coach. You have three new coaches that have never been with us before. We had the issues at the quarterback position that have been very well documented. You had six or seven skill kids that have been in the program for their first year. That’s just a dynamic that is not good. I thought we did a pretty good job up front of holding it together with some older guys, but the timing, the continuity, the chemistry just wasn’t there. Looking back on it, you sit there and you study what you did and what the plays are and try to make some changes – which we do every year. With that said, I think we are way ahead of where we were a year ago. Time will tell on how it is.
On the comfort level at camp
There is familiarity with everything – with personnel, with coaches, with scheme. We know who our starters are on offense. We know who is going to play. Those guys know what the offense is, and we are not teaching them what to do. I mean we were teaching guys what to do in game eight, nine, 10 and 11 last year. At this point in time offensively, we are not teaching anybody what to do. We are just trying to get better at what we are actually trying to accomplish. It’s all technique and learning nuances on where they are supposed to be and how they are supposed to get there as opposed to telling them where to go and all that. It’s a big difference. Night and day.
On the offensive tempo
I am very happy with it. We worked two minute the other day for the first time, and it was almost like we have been doing it all along. The worst thing that you can do when you’re trying to establish an offense is to go fast. I am very fortunate and very comfortable with being able to go as fast as we want to go right now.
On the offensive line progression
The five starters are playing really well together, and we all know who those five are. Those guys are playing well. I am still anxious to see how our relatively inexperienced, talented tackles are as far as some pretty good pass rushers that we are going to face, obviously game one and then in the Big 12 as well. I just gave (redshirt senior offensive line) Mike Calicchio a scholarship. He is the 83rd guy on scholarship right now. Just such a good story. This big, giant of a man was awful five years ago when he showed up. He couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time. He is a hard worker on the field and off the field and is a great student. He is one of our leaders on the entire team right now. When he talks, people listen. He is a guy that can play all five positions. He can’t play center, but he can play guard and tackle. He is a guy that we can count on. (Redshirt junior offensive line) Stone Underwood
was clearly our sixth guy for the first week and a half. He had a little bit of a shoulder deal – actually you guys saw it during the Oklahoma drill. He is just now coming back from that, and it’s been eight or nine days. He is a guy that we are going to count on. The other guy is (redshirt sophomore offensive line) Tony Matteo
– who I have been very happy with. He is the back-up center, and he is a guy that is getting better and better every day. I would say right now that those are kind of our eight guys. We got some young kids like (redshirt freshman offensive line) Marcell Lazard
and (redshirt freshman offensive line) Grant Lingafelter
that have been doing well as redshirt freshmen. I hesitate to talk about redshirt freshmen.
On being successful as a first year player
Speed of the game is the biggest thing. First year players can be freshman or JUCO guys or four year guys. If they are not used to the speed of the game then they are going to struggle a little bit. They have to be able to think quickly. It is not always about size and speed – it is about the mental aspect of reacting to it.
On projection of the run/pass ratio
We want to be able to do both. We couldn’t do either last year, but we wanted to be able to do both. It all just depends on what the defense is doing. If they out-number you in the box, then we are not going to sit out there and run into people that are unblocked. We have to be able to throw the ball. Certain people’s game plans are going to put two or three safeties back there all the time, and we have to be able to sustain blocks for that up front then you should run the ball every single play. It’s all indicative in what the defense is doing, and you have to be able to do both. The teams that are good are able to do both. I been on plenty of teams where we were only able to do one thing, and I don’t consider that to be a great offense.
On offense efficiency
We were middle of the pack last year, offensively, in yards per game and yards per play, but dead last in the stuff that matters which is third downs, fourth downs, turnover margin and score zone rate. Good offenses are the ones that are extremely efficient in those situations. Everybody is good enough to be able to get yards and first downs. It’s the great offenses that are able to be efficient when it really matters and I hope you didn’t jump the gun on that. We haven’t played a game, and I don’t know if we made progress on it or not. We have focused on it, but we focused on it last year as well.
On improving offense efficiency
Again, its people that understand what you are doing. There is no secret. Florida State University was the most efficient red zone team in the country last year at 97 percent. I would say that’s pretty good. When they got down there they scored every time. That’s just being able to understand the offense and execute when it gets hard. It gets hard on third down. It gets harder on fourth down, and it even gets harder when you get closer to the goal so being able to execute efficiently when things are extremely hard is what good teams are made of. We had our problems at that defensively too. I thought we were pretty good defensively – just in playing defense we got better – but when it was third down we weren’t very good. We were last in the league in third down defense if I am not mistaken. We have to get better that. We have to get better at critical situations.
On overall things to work on
We covered every situation at this point – 15 days into it we covered every situation. I mean I’m not saying we are good at every situation, I’m saying we covered it. Two minute was something we covered a couple days ago. Because of how we been practicing, I didn’t think that we would have a problem with being able to do that. I mean you guys saw that up-tempo period that we did. Part of that period is just cold plays and as fast as you can. It does two things. It puts people in opportunities that they have to play five, six or seven plays in a row, and they have to be able to think when they are tired. We are getting them in game shape and putting them in situations where they don’t have time to think about, they just have to react to it. Even though that period may look bad at times, I’m okay with it, because of what we are trying to get accomplished in that specific period. So when we went into the two minute we are taking it a step further where they have to know the situation. They have to know when to get out of bounds. They have to know when to clock it. They know when they can huddle up. They know when they can sub. So, we are able to get up on the ball and snap it as quickly as we possibly can and gets played calls because we have been practicing that. We just haven’t looked at the situation as far as how much we were down, how much time was on the clock – that sort of thing. Which we responded to that pretty well.
On No. 2 quarterback decision
Yeah. (Senior quarterback) Paul (Millard) looks good. He has been taking reps and is obviously the most game ready. I haven’t made that decision for sure yet. (Freshman quarterback) William (Crest Jr.) is a guy that is going to continue to rep and continue to get better. His ceiling is high. How far he can advance, I don’t know yet, so he will continue to get reps as well.
On wildcat scheme
I never done it – not to say I’m against it – I never done it based on not having a guy to do it. Then in addition to that, we always had starting quarterbacks, discard last year, but we always had a guy, that was the main guy, that was pretty good and we didn’t want to take him off the field. Period.
On pulling out your starting quarterback
I think it can be harmful, yes. I think it can disrupt your flow. I think if there is one clear cut main guy – at this point (redshirt senior quarterback) Clint (Trickett) is the main guy, Clint is playing extremely well – then there is a comfort level that he has that I’m excited about. There is also a comfort level that his teammates have with him, which is good. Pulling him off the field will not be the appropriate thing to do at this time.
On redshirting freshman quarterback William Crest Jr.
Well, we had to use three of them last year. In a perfect world, you would like to redshirt everybody that has a redshirt, but I don’t think we can make that decision at this point.
I don’t know what that means. Football is hard. It is a new challenge each and every week when you are trying to figure out what the game plan is and how you execute it when it is a different set of dynamics on the defensive side of the ball. I don’t think anybody has mastered anything. He (Clint Trickett
) certainly hasn’t. He hasn’t mastered anything in a game setting at this point. I am very happy at where he’s at, mentally. I am happy of where he is at physically. I am happy with where he is at from a leadership perspective. He has to do it in a game, before everyone is extremely happy with him. You know that. I think everybody does.
On the confidence level with the special teams
Good. (Associate head coach (special teams coordinator/safeties)) (Joe) DeForest has a plan and is pretty good at what he does. That is widely known across the country. He’s done a good job with these guys. They are a bunch of goof balls. (Redshirt senior kicker (Michael) Molinari did something. He won a bet, so he did a big chest bump and came down and twisted his ankle. At that point, we had to remind them that they have a job that they have a job to do, but he’s going to be fine. Those guys have a good relationship with Joe and their functioning pretty well. The return aspect is something that we all talked about. We were bad at it. It’s been an area of emphasize in camp. I think we have guys that can return the ball. Our blocking has to better at front at both punt returns and kick returns. Then the kickoff and the punt team last year were as good as anyone in the country at that. I am extremely happy with where we are at.
On the kickoff position
He’s (Michael Molinari
) got a boot on is foot right now. Mike’s done well and then (Junior) Nick (O’Toole) can do it as well. We have two guys that can do it. We would prefer (Michael) Molinari to be the guy just so that way then he can specialize in different things. When he comes back, I don’t know. We will see.
On the holder for kickoffs
Nick O’Toole is a great holder. He may better than Mike at it, but Mike has the experience so we will obviously go with him. That is one area that I feel like I don’t need to worry about too much. I promised Joe (DeForest) when they miss, which chances are they will at times, that I will mind my own business.
On talking to the players about Monday’s comments being taken out of context
No. We have sessions like that obviously. We try to educate them and Mike (Montoro (Director of Football Communications)) and (Associate Athletic Director/Communications) Mike (Fragale) do a great job of educating them as far as what they say and we have great kids that understand what realities are and what you pay attention to and what you don’t.
On injuries thus far
(Jared) Barber (senior linebacker) is not going to be ready. It’s unfortunate. He is such a good team leader. He will still have that role as a leader. He gets down there and coaches the heck out of the linebackers. He is a great kid to have around. If he doesn’t get back to where he is able to play this year than a year from now he is going to be excited about being a fifth-year senior and being able to graduate with 25 of the guys that he came in with. If he can’t go, then he won’t. (Redshirt freshman wide receiver) Jacky’s out. Other than that, there are some day-to-day guys. The list grows and shrinks every day based on the previous practice, but at this point in time those are the only two that have been strictly ruled out.
On Alabama preparation
Not yet. We will start Monday. My theory has been this way forever. At that point in time, the kids are excited about moving into their dorms and all the females running around campus. Camp breaks on Saturday, and we are going to have an academic meeting on Sunday night. We have Football 101 on Sunday night, and you all are invited to that. Then Monday they start school and that is their off day, so we will sit in meetings for 15 hours and begin our initial preparation for Alabama which is still two weeks out at that point.
On the challenges of facing Nick Saban
I think every coach likes that kind of a challenge. His body of work speaks for itself. We will talk about it more in the media when it is actually right in front of us. I am fortunate enough to go against a bunch of quality coaches, and it’s been that way for quite some time. Is it a challenge? Yes, but we look forward to challenges.
I think that has something to do with the position he is playing too. We are going to redshirt (junior offensive lineman) Sylvester Townes
and here is why. Offensive line is the hardest position to play. It is the most challenging position to play. Glowinski coming in, there was plenty of days where we had our Sunday night football, and I looked at him thinking, boy, did we make a mistake here. There were times where he couldn’t play more than two or three plays in a row and was breathing hard, struggling and did not look good. Going into his junior year, you could see the improvements that he made. Going into his senior year, he is as good as an offensive guard as I seen him. He looks great. He is a great kid. He is a great leader and great academically. He is exactly what you want, but he just wasn’t quite ready, and I think that has everything to do with what the actual position is. I think Dale (Wolfley) in the back can attest to that. Offensive line is pretty tough. He needed that year, and I would imagine a year from now when we talk about Sylvester Townes
it will be the same thing. Can’t afford to do that in other positions. (Redshirt junior offensive lineman) Stone Underwood
is a good example of that. He wasn’t ready a year ago, but coming into his redshirt junior year, he is a guy that can contribute.