Friday Feedback

August 22, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Welcome to the Friday Feedback, which today asks for help. We’re warming up the engine so the blog can run optimally this season. We did the same last season and I felt like we had a solid and reliable rotation of features. I don’t think I’ll mess much with it, though I do intend to try to make more room for the smaller sports, as can. I don’t anticipate covering them, but there’s no reason I can’t devote a little bit of space, say, once a week.

Anyhow, we do this thing here and it’s pretty much the most amazing thing we do. It could be the most amazing thing anywhere, but we’re not entering best blog competitions. It’s called the Good and the Bad and most editions look a little like this.

I track the stats and not even TFGD is clicked or shared as much as G&B. And people seem to like it. Helps them see the game after the game and better understand what happened and sometimes anticipate what happens the next time. It’s cool like that.

But … but it can be a nuisance. I always try to watch the game a second time, but sometimes that’s just a terrible time. Mostly I soldier on and do it because I learn a lot from it, too, but … but it can be a nuisance.

And here’s where you come in.

I need to streamline this. Presently, I set up a flip cam, point it at the television and record the play I want to feature. Scout’s honor. When I’m done watching the game, I upload the videos to YouTube. Then I save and edit them. Then I do the blog. It’s not a brief process, and sometimes the videos are askew because, you know, it’s a flip cam on a bar stool.

I know there has to be a quicker way to do this and to feature better videos. But I don’t know where to look or what to do, so I’m begging you to help save G&B.

I’m looking for a quicker and cleaner way to do the G&B and I am open to all suggestions.

Onto the Feedback. As always, comments appear as posted. In other words, pick your battles.

tls62pa said:

So well put.

The words of Mike Calicchio, that is.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tony Gibson tries picking a lane

August 21, 2014 by Mike Casazza

The Alabama preparations have begun at WVU, but truth be told, they began long ago. Tony Gibson gave his defense something to work on every day during camp, but the defensive coordinator got started long before that, if only in his head.

He’s going to keep a lot of his thoughts to himself, and that’s understood, as well as countered on the other side of the field. But we agree on one simple premise: There’s a good bit of mystery involved with getting ready for the Crimson Tide based on what Gibson does and does not know.

Read the rest of this entry »

“The Roll is over.”

August 21, 2014 by Mike Casazza

I spent some time with the Smoking Musket lads for a podcast last week — actually, quite a bit of time because it was a two-parter — and in part explained what I’ve explained before: “Crazier things have happened than West Virginia going into a neutral field and beating Alabama.”

I’m not smart or dumb enough to say that’ll happen. The Mountaineers certainly have their work cut out for them. This isn’t going to be easy and might not be pretty. That said, weird things happen in the opening weekend of the season. Every year. Everywhere. Teams have all summer to prepare, and players this year had eight weeks to work with their coaches. You’d much rather catch Alabama in the first week of the season than the tenth. Or fourth. Or second.

Then again, maybe Alabama ain’t Alabama, Paul. Someone over at TSM (with far more humble blog writing roots) did his research, unearthed compelling content and tied it to a point, one that might get you excited nine days before kickoff.

 But now, as we see the mammoth reeling from a two-game losing streak, we see a creature whose  vulnerability hasn’t been so evident (or really even present) since its last two-game losing streak over five years ago.

But finally we can say those three beautiful words: It’s over, Bama.

And Angus makes 85

August 20, 2014 by Mike Casazza

In the past, WVU has tried to keep this under wraps, especially right around signing day when the scholarship count can be made out to be mythology and thus used against schools. Quite unexpectedly last week, Dana Holgorsen updated us on where things stand … and that was a sign that Mountaineers were expecting to do something somewhat seismic.

Mike Calicchio (requisite mention) was Scholarship No. 83. Jaylon Myers arrived Sunday, was in class Monday and practiced Tuesday (“Jaylon can run,” I was told.) and today West Virginia’s football program reached a landmark.

That’s big. It’s Dontae Angus-big. Try as they might, the Mountaineers couldn’t get to that number in Dana’s first three seasons, and for some of the seasons before that. You don’t need to be at 85, but if you want depth and quality spring and camp football, you ought to be darn close. WVU was in the high 60s at times in the past and gradually moved toward the max before finally hitting it today.

I feel like this deserves some attention. Plus, the senior class isn’t a full class — though it will leave some holes because of the recent transfer influx – and the 2015 recruiting class gets really nice reviews.

As for Angus, who flipped from Florida to the Mountaineers on signing day — as the story goes, he committed to the Gators without visiting, and then never did visit afterward — he told me he’ll be on campus tomorrow. He said he learned today he’s eligible, enrolled and allowed to practice. “Everything, man,” he said with a booming voice.

Angus is 6-foot-7. He weighed himself a few weeks ago and saw he’s lost 20 pounds to dip down to 309. He’s under the impression he’ll begin as a defensive lineman, but he’s open to anything and he’s aware that things can change because he’s arriving late and after other plans have been executed to shore up one line or the other.

With just a little help, Bradley fitting in at WVU

August 20, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Forgive me if this is off by just one or two, but I ran out of fingers and toes as I tried to keep track long, long ago. Still, Tom Bradley has answered somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 questions about Penn State, The Scandal, his two years away from football, his return to the game, his new title, his new role, his new wardrobe, so on and so forth.

And he’s been genuinely and almost unbelievably gracious about all of it. You ask a question, be it in March or August, and he gives you a sincere answer.

Which is to say he’s been more helpful at the outset here than people were with him…

The grass practice field has to go

August 19, 2014 by Mike Casazza

I live a punt away from Mountaineer Field. It’s pretty cool walking to games and practices and press conferences or using the music from the stadium speakers as ambiance when I’m on my deck. I, like many others, walk my dog around the stadium. Sometimes we come across a coach or a player and have a brief chat.

On the busy days during camp or the season, when I’m in and out of the house for press conferences and practice and interviews, I try to walk the beagle around the stadium. It’s good for both of  us.

One such day was Aug. 4. There was practice on the practice field. I watched the open part of it. I came home and knocked out a vlog. I walked the dog out of the neighborhood, down the hill past the practice field and the indoor facility, around the stadium and … wait a second.

The team wasn’t on the practice field. It was in the stadium. That’s extraordinarily weird and, it turns out, important.

Read the rest of this entry »

Your 2014 All-Camp team!

August 19, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Disclaimer … because this was impossible for some people to understand last season, which was the debut edition of this “Eh, why not?” idea I dreamed up one night: This is NOT an official depth chart. I know it’s still going to make its rounds as an official depth chart, but it is not.

We’re not going to see a real depth chart, I don’t think, until Tuesday. That’s Dana Holgorsen’s first regular-season press conference and the team distributes game notes just before it. Early in that packet is a depth chart.

So, no, this is NOT a regular-season depth chart. This is the 2014 All-Camp team, a listing of the West Virginia players who made the most of, who helped themselves the most during, who were the talk of the 17 days of preseason camp. It’s based on my notes and observations and the things I hear when I talk to players and coaches and whoever else I chat up along the sideline or in the team building.

When I broke this thing out last year, I was careful to describe it as, “The players on offense and defense who made the best use of camp. Not necessarily stars and starters, but the people who came out of camp in a better situation than they were in when they entered it.”

Are we clear? So help me if you put this on a message board and say, “Dana’s lost his mind. Look at his depth chart for Alabama, Paul..”

Before we start, here’s last year’s all-camp team.

And here’s the 2014 squad…

Read the rest of this entry »

With a tip from foes, WVU has plenty to fix

August 19, 2014 by Mike Casazza

We’re all left wondering just what WVU will do on defense in 2014. We have our opinions and our (conspiratorial) theories and we won’t know for sure until Aug. 30.

Remember all that one-down-lineman stuff we were promised in the spring? Remember no-down-linemen in the spring game? Never saw any of it, never heard any of it in the summer. Remember the Buck linebacker? Gone. Remember Anthony Leonard? He’s coaching linebackers, and you can safely presume he’s coaching what he knows at this stage of the season.

And the weekend was, shall we say, interesting for WVU. It started with a scrimmage situation Friday in which the defense missed 22 tackles.

Ickey Banks is away from the team, and while the Mountaineers are hopeful they can fix this Thing, they nevertheless know there’s a good chance they won’t. Dravon Henry dressed in green and didn’t scrimmage Saturday. That’s 40 percent of a starting secondary that took some lumps last season, but there are question marks elsewhere.

Brandon Golson still isn’t practicing. The defensive line was jumbled Saturday with Christian Brown as a backup nose guard, though that may have been just to get a look there and to see what Noble Nwachukwu, Shaw Riddick, Dontrill Hyman and Eric Kinsey could do at defensive end. Quite likely, Brown will play a bunch of nose this season in one role or another.

So while the talk of improvement is probably true and fairly based on the wealth of experienced players, it’s important to remember this thing isn’t fully fixed. Far from it, in fact.

The 2013 season wasn’t statistically as bad as 2012, but it wasn’t good. Not even close. Some of it was out of WVU’s hands because of injuries and youth, to say nothing of good offenses in the Big 12, but the Mountaineers contributed to their problems.

We’ve been over many of those problems before, so how about a new voice? Big 12 opponents remembered many of the things they they did well and many of the things WVU did not do well in 2013 as a way to better explain what has to be better in 2014.

“When they went Cover 2, it worked a lot for us,” Oklahoma State receiver Jhajuan Seales said. “We saw their Cover 2 was always open in the middle of field.”

Quarterback J.W. Walsh passed for 322 yards and three touchdowns against WVU and the Cowboys had success in the middle with screens and short and longer throws into the middle.

The Cover 2 defense WVU played quite a bit last season is a common tactic where the two safeties play the deepest part of the secondary and each take half of the field. The cornerbacks and linebackers underneath play man-to-man or zone defense to protect their area.

“I’d say we were faster than them in those areas,” said TCU receiver David Porter, who caught eight passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns against WVU.

WVU gets a big boost

August 18, 2014 by Mike Casazza

I’m on vacation, but the bat signal beckons. I’m told Jaylon Myers will be in class today at West Virginia University. We vlogged about this last week, and it still seems like a real surprise, remembering I was someone saying we’d probably never see him in a WVU uniform. Surprise or no, this is a big deal, for myriad reasons. There are a lot of people who believe he was WVU’s top signee.

He had a great summer in the classroom and went from being someone who wasn’t really in the thought process to someone who the Mountaineers were crossing their fingers over in the last week or so. And simply put, the junior college All-American can help. Right away? Probably not .. but then again, he can go. I’m not sure he couldn’t handle a few plays and jump on a special teams unit and then grow from there. There was talk before he could be a safety or a corner, and WVU wouldn’t say no to either option. But if there’s a spot for a guy who comes in on the first day of class, it’s cornerback, where a coach can say, “Hey, cover that guy.”

More importantly, Worley/Myers is a nice look for 2015.

C-A-L-I-C-C-H-I-O!

August 15, 2014 by Mike Casazza

I’d say we’re a long way from that day. You know Mike Calicchio’s name and you know the spelling now.

The cool part about Mike Calicchio getting a scholarship — in truth, he, like Dayron Wilson, retained a scholarship – is obvious. I don’t need to tell you what a welcome relief it is for a kid and his family. The other cool part is the attention the kid gets and the inevitability his story is told — or in Calicchio’s case, re-told.

We’ve obsessed about him for a while.

But he got more and deserved attention at player interviews Friday and I’m pretty happy so many were so interested in getting to know him and what he’s been through to arrive at where he is today. Like Dana Holgorsen said Thursday, great kid, great story, and he’ll remain a big part of what the Mountaineers do in 2014.