Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Tony Gibson tries picking a lane

Thursday, August 21, 2014

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.


“The Roll is over.”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

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.


Your 2014 All-Camp team!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

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…


With a tip from foes, WVU has plenty to fix

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

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

Monday, August 18, 2014

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.


Friday, August 15, 2014

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.

Friday Feedback

Friday, August 15, 2014

Welcome to the Friday Feedback, honest with you from the git go. We weren’t supposed to be here today because I’m stealing a few off days before the season starts — and I’m doing it next weekend, too — but I didn’t want to leave without making the bed. That nonsense from Monday and then Wednesday deserves more attention than I’ve given it, but I’m going to warn you now that my opinion is strong and firm here and it might not be popular. I don’t want to leg drop the Macho Man, but here goes.

First, I understand my opinion isn’t any better than anyone else’s. These are opinions and not facts, and the biggest reason we’re all here is because we have and share and defend and sometimes change our opinions. You and I are coming from different places and we want and admire, we frown at and are disappointed by different things from the head coach.

But, man, I have a hard time thinking on the same level as the people who didn’t know what Dana Holgorsen was saying Monday. And my opinion is that if you were offended or appalled or shocked by Dana stating what’s a commonly accepted reality, you probably don’t have a right to be offended or appalled or shocked. That conversation isn’t for you and you shouldn’t be shaping it.

Stop here for a moment … before you leave forever. I’m not saying you can be disappointed Dana said it or that you can’t wish the coach of your team had exercised better judgment. You can. We’re dealing with different emotions there, you see? I understand, never mind condone, that particular response.

But the people who have an issue with Dana going where he went, who decided to make that a headline? Nope. Nope.

This is a big part of a big reason why I don’t think press conferences should be televised or streamed. I post them here. But I do not like it. I pushed back against it for a long time. (Something about giving away the quotes before I write the story bothers me to this day.) But now I accept that if I don’t someone else will, and I risk losing you to some other place. But they’re press conferences, not public conferences. They exist for us to ask questions and then take the information contained within to the public. A portion of the audience doesn’t … speak the language, so to speak … and there’s no translator to Dana’s left or in a little box inset in the corner. People hear and react and things start spinning.

Let me ask you a question: Who among the people in that room that day, or even the people who cover the team who weren’t there that day, made a meal of it? Your answer should be “Nobody.” Isn’t that odd? Yet that’s the reality because those people know and who are around Dana, who know what he says and how he says things and the difference between the two, they knew the conversation we were having. I don’t want to get into the matter of who made a deal of it and why. I feel like we  just had a similar conversation. And I think my point speaks louder.

We’re going to talk a lot about this after this, so I’ll wrap this up now, but what Dana did Monday was essentially admit to speeding. Someone’s going to say, “Why is it so hard to obey the speed limit?” And I’ll reply, “You must be fun at parties.”

Onto the Feedback. As always, comments appear as posted. In other words … not uh, can’t get past it … MOTOR BOAT!

Dann White said:

Are you saying that you didn’t want to spill the beans here about another beat writer? It appears that in this day and age, a reporter can make news by reporting it, or tweeting it; if there’s a difference. Is that OK?
I wonder if the party that tweeted those remarks feels any responsibility for the furor they caused? Seems unfair to publish quotes out of context and/or without explaining it was said as a joke, because that is truly how it sounded to me. The over-reaction to the coach’s remark was straight out of Watergate or Lewinsky-gate.
I probably wouldn’t be so curious about this most recent gaffe, but after seeing HCDH letting Hertzel slide so generously, I don’t like seeing him embarrassed or undermined by those he opens up to. (I guess I’m starting to like Dana, I don’t recall feeling protective of him before)

I’m saying I’m not prosecuting a fellow beat writer. We don’t do that, or at least we shouldn’t. We shouldn’t delight in a coach or a player or an administrator blowing up a fellow writer. Again, I understand why it happened, and maybe on some level of recourse or closure, it had to happen. But I’m not going to applaud it. I’m on the other team. And I’ve been in that seat before. That medicine tastes awful. I’m still angry there were some “reporters” laughing about it. I don’t want any of them on my side of the fence.