MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The West Virginia University football coaching staff and members of the WVU football team met with the media on Tuesday, April 11, 2017, at the Milan Puskar Center Team Room.
Associate Head Coach (Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers) Tony Gibson
On if he likes what he has seen out of redshirt freshman linebacker Brendan Ferns after coming back from an injury sustained last season
Yeah. He had his best day on Sunday in the scrimmage. He made a lot of tackles and is very active. Now he is starting to let loose a little bit and not be cautious. He is playing Mike right now.
On how the players have progressed through spring
We have had a lot of guys who are stepping up and making some plays. Again, probably the kid who made the most plays on Sunday was (redshirt senior senior) Dante Bonamico
. He was a kid, he was in on some turnovers, made a bunch of tackles and is the smallest guy out there, but he is flying around and doing some good things. You have the guys, the (redshirt sophomore linebacker) David Long
’s and (redshirt senior linebacker) Al (Rasheed Benton) and guys like that. (Redshirt junior safety) Toyous (Avery), (redshirt sophomore defensive lineman) (Adam) Shuler (II), (redshirt freshman defensive lineman) (Jeffery) Pooler (Jr.), those guys are all guys who are stepping up and doing some good things.
He just keeps getting better. He is a guy who gives maximum effort in everything he does, in the film room, on the practice field, in the weight room. He loves football and just makes plays all over the field. I am very impressed with him. The good thing is, we have three more years with him.
On if he likes how the cornerback position is developing
I do. We have three guys who have really stepped up and are having good springs. (Senior cornerback) Elijah Battle
, (redshirt sophomore cornerback) Hakeem Bailey
, (senior cornerback) Mike Daniels
. I really like where (redshirt freshman cornerback) Jake (Long), (redshirt freshman cornerback) Sean (Mahone) are at as well. Those young guys are getting a lot of good quality reps, so we will hopefully continue to see them grow in summer workouts and fall camp.
Assistant Coach (Cornerbacks) Doug Belk
On if the transition of his new role has gone how he has expected
Well I was kind of wondering because we have some carry over from what coach (Blue) Adams did, so with what (associate head coach (defensive coordinator/linebackers)) (Tony Gibson) Gibby has done with him being a secondary guy, everything has transitioned pretty well. I have been pleased with the performance, and I think we have a long way to go. We have gotten a lot better in the couple of weeks that we’ve had on the field.
On the player communication
We’ve had some different techniques that we’ve implemented. Some people were comfortable at first, some people didn’t like it at first, but we’ve kind of got a medium where everyone is comfortable and everyone is playing fast. That’s the ultimate goal, to be able to implement these things and play fast and execute when it’s time to execute.
On the difference of being a full time coach compared to a graduate assistant
Well for me, not too much different because my role at Alabama was pretty significant, being on the field, being able to coach, had a large role in recruiting, so now it’s just being able to run the meeting every day and kind of have a little bit more grasp on the players. That’s really the biggest part, but the football part is very similar.
Assistant Coach (Offensive Line) Joe Wickline
On experimenting with different players at different positions on the offensive line
Based on two, three things. No. 1, at calculating a decision on where can I get the best combination, the best five on the field in any given moment. No. 2 is, I make calculating decisions and it this guy gets hurt, can I flip him from right tackle to left guard? He’s never played left guard though, oh by the way he has. The third thing I do at calculating decisions is the day that competition leaves your room, is the day your room goes flat. At any given time every line must know, ‘you know I may not be right tackle, maybe another guard, maybe center, but I have a chance. If I’m playing well and I’m playing hard, he will move me from here, behind his next weakest guy and I will always have a chance, so I’ll always fight to get better.’ So I don’t know that it’s experimenting. I have reasons to the madness.
On getting versatility
Well, anytime you can get guys who can play tackle and guard. I’ve had centers who break their leg and move a tackle to center. We all do that. I think they learn the scheme a little better. If I play outside, inside, left and right, they end up associating with the concepts having played all positions. Trust me the ideal, is what we’re all standing here, we all know it, the ideal is this guy plays left guard or right guard, left tackle, the entire five years he’s here. I get all of that, but with the numbers where we are right now, we’re okay. With the numbers where we’ll be, we have to have to have some guys play several places.
Assistant Coach (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks) Jake Spavital
On if everything this spring is going like he hoped
We’re getting there, we’re getting there. We are protecting a lot of players too. (Senior running back) (Justin) Crawford, doesn’t get as many reps later in spring as possible. We are trying to get as many looks with these young guys as we possibly can and just get things moving forward from them.
On the most important attribute a quarterback should have
A short-term memory. That is one of the biggest things. (Redshirt junior quarterback) Will (Grier) is unbelievable at that. If he has a bad play, a bad drive, he normally forgets about it, gets the kids motivated on the sidelines and moves on to the next series, next play. That’s one of the biggest attributes that you can have as a quarterback.
Will has a very clean release and he has a strong arm. The kid can make all of the throws necessary at any level, in the NFL or college football. He is a very polished passer. You can tell that he is a coaches kid and he has been trained his whole life at throwing the football. That is the easy part to him. It is just throwing the ball. It has been a great tool to work with this spring so far.
On the where he is this spring compared to last spring
At this point, I feel like I am able to work on things that would put me in a better position to help my team win games. I feel pretty confident now.
On what he needs to work on
My pass protection. That is the main thing. I can run the ball with no hassle, just pass blocking is the main thing. That is my biggest goal, and I am working on it hard.
On if he could improve as a pass catcher out of the backfield
Yeah, most definitely. Just focusing on the ball more and watching it all the way in. I have spent extra time catching the ball, just the little things.
On if anything is different catching the ball from another quarterback
No, a quarterback is a quarterback. If you can catch the ball, you can catch the ball.
On the difference in offenses from this year to last year
It is pretty much the same, but it has that little extra oomph behind it.
On spring practice and how coach Joe Wickline moves guys around
It’s not much different. It’s just creating depth. Right now we don’t have very many offensive linemen, so we’re trying to get everybody acclimated to every position we can just because that reason we only have 13 offensive linemen, I think only nine scholarship guys, 10 scholarship guys on the (offensive) o-line, so we have a lot of guys who can help us but they need to get use to different positions in order to help us.
On the talent at the tackle position
Yeah, I think upfront we’re very stout this year. It’s going to be hard to replace (Tyler Orlosky) T.O., (Adam) Pankey and Tony (Matteo), but I think so far we’re doing a good job of filling guys in there.
On how the offensive line has handled the turnover losing the older guys and if there has been a loss in communication
Not really, no. I think it helped. It was kind of a double-edged sword when coach (Ron) Crook left and coach (Joe) Wickline took over and all those older guys left, it kind of opened up an opportunity to re-calculate how we communicated and how we processed things across the line, and a good time to introduce new schemes by having all of those older guys out and coach Crook gone and coach Wickline coming in and kind of bringing in his own schemes to the offensive line. It kind of all worked out in the end.
On if he has been working on adding speed and quickness
Yeah, definitely. I’ve gotten a lot faster. I’ve lost a little bit of weight and that made me a lot faster on my feet. It’ll help me get down there and make a couple more tackles this year, hopefully. The ultimate goal is just putting that ball on the right hip really.
On balancing being able to snap, block and still have speed
It’s pretty hard, but I think I do a good job with my strength. That makes up for some of the weight that I lost, my strength. Blocking on field goals versus running down for punts. I’ve definitely gotten a lot faster I feel like.
On biggest difference between snapping this year and snapping last year
This time last year, it was pretty much the same. I just focus on staying consistent. Putting the ball in the same spot. That’s really the biggest deal with it.
On using muscle memory to deliver faster snaps
Once you get the spot down it’s definitely operation time. Getting it there so (redshirt junior kicker/punter) Billy (Kinney) can get the kickoff faster or (redshirt senior kicker) Mike (Molina), whoever it is back there.
On where he is with delivery time
I mean for punt, anywhere from around 0.73 or 0.74 of a second. Field goal, we don’t time just the snap. We time from snap to kick. We’re around 1.3, 1.25 seconds.
On how WVU found him
They were my 16th one, and when he came up to recruit me. After I took my visit, that’s what brought me up here.
On how he would describe his game to someone
Fast and physical. That’s my game. That’s how I would describe it. Get ball, see ball.
On if any game stuck out last year
My first start, the Kansas State game. That’s really when I got the feeling. My first three games I didn’t really play much. I just had to sit back and watch. After I learned pretty much everything, I got out there and got a chance to showcase it.
On this group of linebackers
It’s pretty much like last year. Pretty athletic. Talkative. We all like to talk out there, get stuff started. Aggressive. We like to win.
On how size at the linebacker position makes a difference
It helps us a lot. We can take on bigger guys like pretty much what (Justin) Arndt did last year. Not much of a difference. We have a lot of younger guys behind us who have been stepping up throughout the spring.