MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University football coaching staff addressed members of the media on Thursday at the Milan Puskar Center Team Room.
Associate Head (Coach Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers) Tony Gibson
On being the oldest tenured assistant
Yeah, I guess, I don't feel any older, but maybe lucky. It's good this is obviously a place I want to be. Don't want to be anywhere else in college football. Obviously, I had a great opportunity to sign a three-year extension, so I'll be here for a while I hope.
(Redshirt junior safety) Dravon (Askew-Henry) is a kid who has played a lot of football for us, and it's good to have his leadership back. His skill set back at safety, kind of running and being the quarterback of our defense. (Redshirt freshman linebacker) (Brendan) Ferns is a guy we were very high on, and unfortunately got hurt early in camp, so I didn't get to see a whole lot of him, but I think he has potential to be a really good player for us.
On seeing Head Coach Dana Holgorsen give away the play calling duties
(Assistant Coach Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks) Jake (Spavital) and Dana (Holgorsen) have had a great relationship. They've worked a lot together. Jake knows what he wants and kind of how he wants it done, and Jake will put his own twist on it. As a head coach, I think over the last four or five years you've seen a lot of change in how he approaches it. I think and he's said it many of times it's more of game-management type for him and to do that. We work great together and that's why you see us trending up, getting more wins and doing some things, but those guys obviously worked very well together as well.
On West Virginia being a hotbed for recruiting
I think it means a lot. I could sell a lot of different things here and it's not BS, or it's not lies. I'm from here, coaching here obviously and this is a special place, so when I go into a school or home, I know a majority of the people. I think that part is good for us and the other part is too. These kids are getting offers now by other Big 12 teams, are coming in and offering these in-state guys for SEC teams, so we have to get a hold on our state. We've always said it from day one if their good enough for us to win football games we're going to recruit them. It doesn't matter who's offered or whatever, we're going to put all our efforts into keeping our kids home and try to get them to help West Virginia win football games.
Assistant Coach (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks) Jake Spavital
On opportunity to call plays and what it says about the trust Head Coach Dana Holgorsen has in him
Yeah, I think it says a lot, coming from the guy who I actually learned how to call the game. When we talked about this after I left in the 2012 season, I wanted to go out and try it on my own. I thought over the course of three years at Texas A&M and one at Cal. (California) I grew as a play caller, I grew as a coach, and over those years (Football Head Coach) Dana (Holgerson) and I have had many conversations about philosophy and how to move the ball. I think after all of those years of conversation and me going out and doing it on my own is what led me back to Morgantown.
On schemes that have changed since he left in 2012
It’s very similar. When I was at Texas A&M the personnel is kind of where Dana (Holgorsen) has evolved with, a little more fullback, tight-end body types, and that’s what I did when I was at Texas A&M. When I got to Cal. (California), there weren’t any tight ends at that university, so I had to use a lot of 10 personnel looks to move the ball, but I think the best offensive minds get their best players and find a way to get the best 11 out there to move the ball efficiently that way. So just from a recruiting standpoint of Dana, you see the profile of the type of kid that they are bigger up front, they are getting more physical, tougher, the running backs are very impressive right now. I think (senior running back) (Justin) Crawford is one of the top guys out there in the country. You know, you want to give that guy the ball as many times as you possibly can, especially with (redshirt junior quarterback) Will Grier
and his arm talent. You’re starting to see the speed these receivers are bringing. I think where Dana has evolved with where he is recruiting, you can tell that he has a plan, and he’s going with it. I’m excited to be back and to work with him.
On what he has learned about play calling since he has been gone
Yeah, there’s a lot of live and learn out of calling your own plays, but the main thing is you have to put these kids in the best position to have success. You can’t ask a kid to go out there and do something that he’s really not ready to do or he’s not capable of doing, and that was a lot of the growing up part that happened with me over the course of the years where the scheme may have been great but you didn’t have the right players in those positions. You have to adapt to the personnel that you get and put those kids in the best position to go out there and have success.
Assistant Coach (Cornerbacks) Doug Belk
On what he took away from Alabama especially with head coach Nick Saban
I worked with (Alabama Football Head Coach) (Nick) Saban directly in the secondary, so it was obviously very beneficial for me to be able to be under one the best coaches of all-time, from a management standpoint and from a football standpoint. The way he is as a leader has been a good reflection on me for my career.
On Nick Saban’s attention to detail
It’s as advertised. Coaching the details, trying as hard as you can to get everything you can out of developmental players, but also he’s very into developing the coaches as well. It’s at all levels.
On learning about the group he’s inherited at WVU
The group of guys, I’ve had a couple weeks with them now. Not a ton of experience, so a good opportunity for me to develop those guys and have a chance to get to know them. Not a ton of bad habits, because a lot of those guys haven’t played. We have two of the older guys who we’ve seen some action, (senior cornerback) Elijah (Battle) and (senior cornerback) Mike (Daniels), so I’m looking for those guys to be leaders and kind of go from there.
On if he goes in with a clean slate or if he tries to get as much information on his guys before he starts working with them
Kind of from a personality standpoint and obviously just a developmental standpoint, everybody has a clean slate. I’m interested in their work ethic and their attention to detail and the things that they want to accomplish, so trying to figure out what their goals are as well as what they’re able to accomplish on the field from a physical standpoint.
On working with Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban and the values and lessons he’s learned
One, obviously attention to detail, and number two, probably discipline. Discipline and the approach that I take as far as a week-to-week game plan, and also the discipline that you have to be doing what you do for the expectation of the players, so outside of that just organizational management and obviously a lot of time to get ready to go every week.
Assistant Coach (Running Backs) Tony Dews
On the new challenge of coaching running backs
Well, I’m excited about it. Number one, I believe that coaching is teaching, and if you can teach, you can coach. I feel confident in my ability to teach, and again, I’ve been coaching for a little over 20 years now, so I feel like I can adapt. Working for (Arizona Head) Coach (Rick) Rodriguez, one of the things that we did, I stayed in a room with (Arizona Running Backs coach) Calvin Magee, who I feel like, if not the best running back coach in the country, he’s certainly one of them. I’ve spent a lot of time with Calvin, and obviously the success he’s had as a position coach and coordinator, I’ve spent a lot of time with him just talking football in general. Obviously as a coach, part of coaching is going out, and if I don’t know something, seeking someone out that you feel confident in their abilities to coach the position, so I’ve done that, and will continue to do that. It’s trial and error; watch what they’ve done. This is a group that’s been coached very well in my opinion, by coach (JaJuan) Seider over the last few years. It’s pretty evident with some of the guys he’s had, that they’ve gone on and played in the NFL. I’m fortunate to inherit a group like this, and I’m also excited about the change.
On being back in Morgantown
Well it kind of came out of nowhere a little bit. I got a call, I believe it was the day after signing day, that Thursday, that they had a coach leave and wanted to know if I’d be interested in talking to them about the position. I thought about it, talked to a couple folks, talked to coach, wanted to at least listen because obviously, I have some friends through the business and some personal friends who are now here on the staff. I wanted to listen to see what they had to say, see what kind of opportunity it was. I did that, and here we are.
On the appeal to coach running back as opposed to other positions he had coached in the past
I hadn’t coached it, number one. I have goals someday to be an offensive coordinator and maybe even a head coach, so I thought professionally that this would be another opportunity to coach a different position, present a new challenge to myself. At first it was like, “ah, I’m not sure” more because it was something I hadn’t done. I think we all like being comfortable, so although I didn’t know how comfortable I would be or wouldn’t be, I do believe that if you can teach, you can coach, and I feel like I have the ability to teach. I can relate to the players. I think I fit in and can relate to the staff members. I thought, what the heck, at this point in my career it can only help me, so here we are.