Experience is key for WVU squad
MORGANTOWN – You probably wouldn’t pin Dana Holgorsen as a glass-half-full kind of guy.
When asked if he was tired of talking about his West Virginia Mountaineers losing close games last season, the fourth-year coach had an interesting take on it.
“It’s better than getting your (butt) kicked,” he said.
“We’re in a good conference, so there’s going to be close games,” Holgorsen said before Monday’s practice. “It’s the beauty of the situation that we’re in with the Big 12. We’re going to be prepared for close games. We’re going to be in them, and we need to use our experience and things that we’ve been through and the motivation to close those games out.”
The key word is experience.
It’s what coaches and players alike say was missing last season.
As you look up and down the Mountaineers depth chart, experience is everywhere.
A total of 55 players on the roster have played in Big 12 games. They remember what happened last season.
“We had young guys last year that weren’t able to close those games out the appropriate way,” Holgorsen said. “I’ve taken the blame for all of it, but you can blame it on the lack of continuity with coaching staffs, or turnover or whatever it is. The ball just didn’t bounce our way, and we didn’t close it out.
“We’re using that as motivation to develop more camaraderie and having more continuity with staff and players and systems. When we’re in those situations again, which we will be, regardless if it’s the starter or the backups in there for a variety of reasons we need to get in there and close them out.”
The biggest difference this season is going to be the amount of depth, especially on the defense. The Mountaineers have the resources to go three or even four deep at a number of positions.
“We’re not plugging true freshmen in the two deep,” Holgorsen noted. “There are two true freshmen who are in the two deep and that’s (cornerback) Dravon Henry and (quarterback) William Crest is taking some second-team reps. Whether they end up there or not, that’s just night and day compared to where it’s been in the past. Not just last year but even the year before, and the year before we had a lot of true freshmen in the two deep. That’s not the case now.”
Another key for the defense this year is the coaching staff has simplified the schemes.
“It’s a lot less thinking and a lot more reacting,” redshirt junior Isaiah Bruce said.
Holgorsen noted players are lining up quicker as well.
“I thought we did too much stuff last year,” he said.
“We’re playing a lot of different bodies. It’s hard to rep four deep, and there’s a few positions we have on defense where we’re repping four deep. A lot of different bodies we’re lining up quickly, playing with a tremendous amount of energy, which is obviously good to see. It’s still early.”
NOTES: Monday’s practice was the first in full pads. … Holgorsen mentioned the offense could have a special package where Crest would see snaps. … Safety K.J. Dillion is still out with an ankle injury. … Rushel Shell, Dravon Henry and Daryl Worley have been taking reps at kick retuner, while Mario Alford and Jordan Thompson are handling punt returns. … Safety Dayron Wilson, who has been filling in for Dillion, has impressed coaches and was rewarded with a scholarship.