MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University head football coach Dana Holgorsen addressed members of the media Tuesday night, as the Mountaineers finished their sixth spring practice.
We got six practices in. We just finished up with number six and the first one post spring break. I liked their attitude and their mentality today. We always bring them back in Sunday night and have a meeting, feed them and do a workout on Monday. They got their lift workout to just kind of get them back into the routine of things and get them involved with school. I like how we came out there and worked. We had a lot of energy, excitement and played a lot of ball. I thought we did pretty good.
We will go Thursday and try and double up two this weekend because we missed a couple of practices prior to spring break because the weather has been awful. In six practices, we have had five good opportunities to get out there and practice in cold weather and wind. Obviously, we are going to have to deal with that so we have used it to our advantage and got some good work in. I look forward to the day that we actually have spring football as opposed to December and winter football at some point. We are obviously not preparing for a game, but we are trying to get a lot of good, quality reps in, a lot of fundamental work and when the weather gets a little bit better, we will probably be able to keep their attention a little bit more. Overall, I think they are doing a good job. They are doing a good job in the whole offseason just listening to what we are asking them to do and we have a long ways to go. I can’t tell you how much each and every position and each and every unit how far we need to go. It is just where you are at in spring. There are a lot of people across the country that are in the same boat that we are. That is kind of where we are at.
On where the team is at now through six practices
I don’t know where we are at, and I don’t know how good we are going to be. It is a process. Obviously, with nine more practices and approximately 19 more days, we have to get a lot better. Then, we have to add another 25 percent of our team to our roster, and we have to go through camp. Nobody knows how good they are going to be from a 2013 win/loss record. I don’t know where we are headed. We just try to wake up and we try and get better every day. That is what spring is all about. Who knows?
On the review of Geno Smith
I don’t read Pro Football Weekly, but it was brought to my attention that a couple of people wanted me to comment on it. I don’t comment on stuff like that. You guys know how I feel about Geno. I am excited to go to New York. You don’t get invited to New York for the NFL draft if you have issues. That is pretty safe to say. I am excited to be up there with him during that process, and he will be a great pro and will play for a long time.
On the progression at the center position
Better. Coach (Joey) Madsen was around for a couple of days and had kind of worked with Pat (Eger) a little bit with his snaps, which have drastically improved. There was probably only 25 percent of the snaps in the first couple of days that were even fieldable. It was not good. What do you expect? You are moving two guys to center that have never played center. They have really improved. Both Pat and (Tyler) Orlosky are doing some good things. They have to go against Shaq (Rowell) and Christian (Brown) who are both two very big, capable bodies to play defensive nose tackle, so they have their work cut out for them. I am pleased where it is at.
Pat went down with an ankle injury. I don’t know the severity of it so he didn’t finish practice today. He is coming off that ankle surgery that kept him out for six of our first eight weeks of offseason conditioning. Pat was starting to get back into the swing of things, and he went down. I hope it is not serious at all.
We did have one injury that I will report, which is a surgery situation with Adam Pankey. It is incredibly disappointing to see coming off his redshirt year. He has so much upside. He was showing more improvement than any other offensive lineman that we had. He is a big 6-foot-5, 315-pound guy that was moving phenomenally. He had knee surgery for his ACL, so he will be out until they release him in September or October. That is going to cut into his redshirt freshman year.
One other side note from a program standpoint is that (defensive lineman) Korey Harris has been suspended indefinitely for the rest of the semester.
On Pat Eger's ankle
Our doctors don’t know yet. It just happened. I do believe that it is the same ankle, which he had his ankle cleaned up and was back in six weeks. Hopefully it is not any worse than that.
On incoming freshman Stone Underwood
It is recruiting, which means we try and make the best decisions that we possibly can, but you really don’t know what you are going to get until they are here practicing. We thought enough about Stone to recruit him as a center. We knew we were thin at that position. We had no returning center coming back. The three guys that snapped the ball in the fall are all gone. You got to have two to three centers on your team. It is like the quarterback position - if you have two, you get nervous so you really need to have three guys that can snap anyways. We are trying to develop two guys that we feel good about and will add him to the equation and add all three to compete in the fall, and then we will make a decision on who is one, two and three.
On setting the offensive line
No, not necessarily. That (the center) is the quarterback of the group for sure, but you better have some guys that can protect the edge as well. All five positions are important. Offensive line is the most important position on your team. I have said it for years. You have to get a bunch of good and capable guys just based on graduation, that is where all our issues are right now. You have (Quinton) Spain and (Curtis) Feigt back that are both playing well. (Nick) Kindler is a guy who is pushing for a starting job. Being a senior, he is smart, he has played ball and he has been here and wanting to get into the starting rotation. We feel like we have three guys at tackle that we will get by with. It is the inside people that are all new. (Mark) Glowinski is going well. He redshirted. He is moving around well, he has an attitude and he is strong, flexible and mobile. Marquis Lucas is moving better than he ever has so those are guys that have been doing okay. Again, Pankey was one of those guards that may have been the best one.
On what has stood out defensively
I have always loved what he (coach Keith Patterson) has done defensively. That is the reason I hired him from a scheme standpoint. There were a couple of different philosophies last year but now, there is obviously one voice, there is one scheme, and that is what we want to do. The continuity of the staff and what we are doing schematically and with everybody being on the same page, you see a lot of people that are in a position to make plays. That and the 10 to 12 freshmen that we played with last year are older and they are a little bigger, faster and stronger. They are a little bit more game-ready.
On what he has learned from last year
That we are not a whole lot different than the rest of the people in the Big 12. There were nine bowl teams in the Big 12 and seven of them were 7-5. The reality of the situation is we are in a conference that has a whole lot of parody. Everybody needs to understand that. What I mean by everybody is all the coaches, and going through it (in 2012), all our players are going to understand it a little bit more. We have to be incredibly comfortable with all three of our schemes, which we are, and we have to coach them at a high level and we have to demand that our team buys into what we are saying. We have a program full of guys that are ready to step up and play when they are ready to step up and play. I like our staff right now. I like our staff cohesion, and I like what we are doing on all three sides. I like the fact that the players are buying in, and it doesn’t mean that we are going to win any games, it means that everyone needs to understand what the challenges are and not take anything for granted.
On what goes into hiring assistants
In hiring guys, and you can tell this in the guys that I have hired, it is a combination of wanting to be in West Virginia. You can get a better quality coach because people want to live here. A lot of guys that have ties to here want to come back. They will leave good jobs to come back to West Virginia because it is a great place to live. I think probably a little bit more so when you have lived here or your spouse has lived here. From a family situation, raising kids here is great. Being the best fit from a position coach and being a great recruiter. You take all three of those things, and you come up with the best guy to hire. I think we accomplished that with all five of these hires. From a recruiting standpoint, it is an added bonus that JaJuan (Seider) is really good at recruiting south Florida because he met all three of the criteria I was looking for. Same with Lonnie (Galloway). Lonnie is a great receiver coach, and they love it here. I have seen him recruit south Florida. I have seen him recruit Baltimore, and I have seen him recruit the Georgia and North Carolina areas. He can go up and down the east coast, but you can’t do it all. You can’t go from Baltimore to south Florida, so I needed another guy that could help him do that.
On (running backs) Dreamius Smith and Wendell Smallwood
It is just nice to have four good and capable bodies. It is the first time since I have been here that we have four good and capable bodies. They are all a little bit different. It is going to take a lot of time before we can develop any kind of depth chart whatsoever. There is no sense in a depth chart right now. With nine more practices, we are going to continue to find out what each and every one of them do well. They are bring something different to the table. Dreamius is a power runner that has good open field speed, hits it quick and is tough. Wendell is a quick-footed slasher that doesn’t see it. He is young, and he hasn’t played a whole lot of football so he is not as seasoned as the rest of them that hit in the hole the way he will once he actually sees it. Once he does see it, he will get through there pretty quick. He has good speed and he is going to be a big kid. That is going to be a fun battle to watch. As you know, we are going to be using them all in one way or another.
On the difference between today's practice and the practice before break
Same practice. Identical. We go through the script three times, really offensively and defensively assess where we are at and go through it again and add situations. We will add more situations as we get going through camp, but coming back, we are going to have to keep repeating everything and freshen up on it before we actually put in a good bit of situations and start scrimmaging. I wouldn’t anticipate a scrimmage until probably maybe one or two of the final five practices. If we scrimmage, it wouldn’t look very good right now. It is more fundamentals and teaching, learning how to line up, learning how to execute plays and that comes with more snaps.
On who has stood out
The guys defensively that stand out are (Darwin) Cooke and (Karl) Joseph. Those guys are obviously returning starters that have played a bunch, and they have a lot ability. Cook looks totally different than a year ago. We like what we are seeing out of him. Karl Joseph has had a great offseason. He is bigger, he is faster, he is stronger and he is more comfortable in the system. Those guys look good. Isaiah Bruce and (Nick) Kwiatkoski both look good, so the middle stuff looks good. Will Clarke had a good day today. You guys saw the Oklahoma drill, and he was dominating in that drill. We couldn’t block him. Shaq (Rowell) is just a big dude that is going to take on two to three blockers and hold his gaps and from a leadership standpoint, I am real pleased with what he is doing.
Offensively, we are just so inexperienced. I don’t know where to start. We have a bunch of guys that will make a play and then make a mistake.
On Darwin Cook and the changes he has seen
The commitment level and leadership level, and he is far from having things figured out. He is not limping around, he is not making excuses and he is in better shape. He took offseason more serious. A lot of the guys' lights turn on when they become seniors as well. So far so good. Don’t print too many good things about him because then he will think he has things figured out which is far from that.
On the Oklahoma drill
It is what it is. Its one-on-one. When it is 11-on-11, your eyes are everywhere. Even with film, you have to rewind it 10 times before you see everybody. Again, you are coming off a break so they are fresh and energized. You guys had cameras on them and all that stuff. I thought the energy was good and that carried on throughout all of practice too, so I was excited about that. We are going to have to get out there with effort and enthusiasm for nine more days in order to close spring out the way we want to close spring out. Then we move onto the next phase which is voluntary weight room workouts for a couple of months prior to camp.
On how he was affected by the defense
It is hard to play defense in the Big 12. It is hard to win. It is a good conference. I am not making excuses. There were a lot of games, two of them that we should have won; it is just hard to win. College football is competitive, and the Big 12 is competitive. You must pay attention to details on all three sides of the ball. You must have a group of guys that are going to play and act disciplined. Not only on the football field, but in life in general because you are going up against a bunch of people that are good teams and well coached, good facilities and winning traditions. What are you going to do a little bit different and a little bit extra in order to be able to win? It is hard win. Defensively, the same thing as offensively. You have to pay attention, and you have to get better every day. You can’t think you have everything figured out.