Dana Holgorsen talks spring football

April 12, 2014 by Mike Casazza

He begins with the immediacy of the quarterback conundrum and then covers all the bases after Saturday’s spring game.

WVU v. WVU: They can’t possibly lose this one

April 12, 2014 by Mike Casazza


You are looking live at the cover of the program for today’s spring game. Remember a year ago when we had some talks about how there were no “Cover Boys” for the 2013 season? That figured to be a rarity — it had been nine years since the team was in a similar spot — and we pretty much knew time and results would give us names and faces for the future.

Well, your names and faces, so far, for the 2014 season, from left to right: Right guard Mark Glowinski, safety Karl Joseph, left guard Quinton Spain and cornerback Ickey Banks.

I don’t have any problem with any of those guys. If I was doing a list, they’e be in the upper echelon. But I want to stop and point at that list for just a second. The banner men for Dana Holgorsen’s fourth team — Dana Holgorsen, I must repeat — are two offensive linemen and two defensive backs. Two guards and two players who have been on the back end of two of the very worst defenses in school history.

I mean, that’s … that’s something, right?

Now, this is not to say the story won’t change over the summer, or even today, and that guys like Dreamius Smith and Mario Alford and Wendell Smallwood and Kevin White and Nick Kwiatkoski and Daryl Worley and Kyle Rose won’t step forward. And Andrew Buie and I don’t think we should take things like players splashed on covers too seriously, but it’s probably some sort of a clue about this team and the direction it heads after today.

Speaking of what awaits the Mountaineers …



Let’s enjoy this, OK?

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Friday Feedback

April 11, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Welcome to the (236th!) Friday Feedback, which is a what more than a who and concerned with how instead of when. And when I get to the stadium tomorrow morning, that’s how I’ll approach the players who I think can turn WVU into what might be a better team than most people want to think.

Far be it from me to tell you to take a lot from the game tomorrow and the way its reported too seriously. How nonsensical is it? The defense has been the story the past two games — although, to be fair, I suppose the defense has been the story the past two seasons, right?

But that’s what you’re dealing with, so I’d advise you to tread lightly as you attempt to draw conclusions. I think some things can be weighed more heavily this year than last year, for certain, because last year’s spring game and the participants were at the mercy of players who were to arrive over the summer. This year’s spring roster is probably going to have just a few immediately notable additions in June and July and August.

Again I urge you to concern yourself with how instead of who and why instead of what. Example: We know Wendell Smallwood has been the guy this spring. It’s absolutely understandable to get a good look at him tomorrow — but we know he’s had a really nice run of form. Instead, let’s see how they use him. Is he a running back? Is he the first-team running back. Oh, he lined up at receiver? Well, was did he line up at slot or did he motion out from the backfield? Did he run routes or did he do simple stuff?

Hmm, the offensive line wasn’t all that? Well, did the guards dominate? Because they probably should. Did the defense overwhelm the tackles? Who were the tackles? What side did the play calls avoid? What side did the results favor? When were there issues? And why is that?

Something I really want to see: Third downs. WVU’s offense struggled there — and the red zone — last season and WVU’s defense couldn’t get off the field. This is the resistible force and the movable object. I expect both could be better, but I want to see how and I want to know why.

Apart from that? How similar are the play calls for Paul Millard and Skyler Howard? Did Dustin Garrison have a few good days or a really good spring? Is Jon Lewis a thing? Will the corners sink or swim in man-to-man? What does Tony Gibson show us, because did you catch that part where he mentioned a package with one guy with his hand in the turf and 10 guys standing up? And how many defensive players are cross-trained? I don’t expect to see many, but I also can’t yet believe WVU’s defense is so blessed with talent and depth that it can plug in and elevate backups at all spots without borrowing from others.

Oh. Attendance, too. I kind of feel like Dana Holgorsen and WVU are on a goodwill roll and that in a clever, covert sort of way the access to practice has worked wonderfully for the Mountaineers. There hasn’t been a lot to come out of camp, which means mostly good to great stories have emanated from the privacy. They’ve practiced in front of three live crowds and done somewhere between OK and pretty well every time, which is a credit to the team for sticking the landing. We have no idea what’s happened the other 11 times, and it’s wholly irrelevant because what people do know, as well as what they don’t know, figures to conspire and combine into something people want to see on a sunny Saturday.

Or not.

Onto the Feedback. As always, comments appear as posted. In other words, be cool.

netbros said:

These poor kids on defense who are now going into their third or fourth year probably don’t know which end is up

True. Imagine Jared Barber. He’s played-played for Jeff Casteel, Joe DeForest, Keith Patterson and Tony Gibson. Call it Barbacide.

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Howard and Millard more alike than you think

April 10, 2014 by Mike Casazza

The headline on today’s story — as I type this, it’s “Millard, Howard different quarterbacks” — is cheeky and at the same time perfect.

For certain, Paul and Skyler are different entities in this spring’s quarterback competition. One is older. One is far more mobile. One knows better what to do with the ball. One is better at giving himself a chance to make a play. One probably has a stronger arm and one probably makes more accurate throws, but I’m not exactly clear who is who there.

Anyhow, true, they’re far from similar, except when you consider Shannon Dawson is treating them the same. There is a simple job one or the other and ideally both must perform and Dawson doesn’t care how one or the other or both do it, as lone as one or the other or both are successful at distributing the ball no matter the circumstances.

“There are times the protection will break down and a guy will come scot-free,” Dawson said. “What I’d like to see when that happens, especially when it happens in a critical situation, is for you to avoid that guy and go make a play. We’re not going to call perfect plays. It comes down to space and repetitions and people executing.

“The kids out there are at least comfortable enough to where they can be in the right place to execute plays when bad things happen. At some points, you’re going to have to avoid guys and extend a play. The more you can do that, the better we’re going to be.”

Scoop & Score hits the combine

April 10, 2014 by Mike Casazza

(Podcast version: Right here.)

Big show this morning. Spring games are in bloom, but we can make them better. How Final Four weekend might have shaped the future of college sports. And former UConn linebacker Dave Schuman from the famed National Underclassmen Combine is my guest to talk about our obsession with combines and to discuss some of the top draft prospects and WVU recruits. Listen live at 9 a.m.





Gary Patterson will be watching! Will you?

April 9, 2014 by Mike Casazza

I know of a few coaches and coordinators who catch Texas practices on television and I know there is great concern in all corners of the conference and probably even the country about who sees what in the spring what that means.

I know some schools are cancelling spring games and others are protecting them. I know Gary Patterson didn’t allow filming at his spring game and that the TCU coach gobbles up all the spring footage he can find.

But I know Coyle and Rasheed will have the game Saturday on your local Tier 3 network. (Tier 4 was not [yet?] invited. Contact your congressperson.)

Seriously, I didn’t include likely asbestos abatement

April 9, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Long and expensive story short, WVU’s athletic facilities are long overdue for a fix. Oliver Luck diplomatically said as much during a press conference yesterday, praising the university for the way it’s kept things up through the years, but admitting the need for change had outpaced the ability to maintain the venues.

Of course, that press conference was at a makeshift site outside his office that’s actually a reception area that casually doubles as a quiet area outside the academic center. Just about every penny of the (at least) $106 million will be spent and you’re not going to see anything done about media facilities that are needed for the obnoxiously sized throng covering football and basketball. This is not me complaining, either. That’s a WVU complaint, something its people have to apologize for and shrug their shoulders over all the time.

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The meaning of depth and what it means

April 8, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Here’s a fun illustration of WVU’s depth on offense and exactly what it might do for the Mountaineers. Remember, WVU figures to have questions at quarterback and weapons at running back, which means there is incentive to run the ball and to use the running backs, but to also find ways to involve some bigger bodies to add more formations and more potential within those.

All of that is possible because of Rushel Shell, Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood, Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie, but also because of those bigger bodies.

WVU used to have none. WVU thinks it has three now, and I think flexing Cody Clay, Garrett Hope and Eli Wellman can add a lot to the offense, if not actually, than at least conceptually.

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We’re going to need more facilities

April 8, 2014 by Mike Casazza


This gem came from today’s press conference where Oliver Luck was finally allowed to go on the record and speak in detail about the proposed $106 million project for WVU’s athletic venues.

One-hundred and two! And you wonder why they don’t sell beer at the Coliseum.

A lot of people are gasping at the ideas contained within the plan and at the price tag. They wonder why what has worked for so long for WVU’s teams can’t continue to work longer.

That’s antiquated thinking.

In short, WVU is doing now what it couldn’t before. This is the difference between maintaining facilities, which the university did for a long time, and renovating and expanding facilities, which is possible now through a variety of income streams, and namely those provided by the Big 12 and IMG College.

This is probably trite and cliche, but darn if it isn’t true about college sports today: If you’re not getting bigger, you’re not getting better. And if we’re being completely honest, these ideas are more about improving the fan experience and venue functionality than they are about coddling student-athletes.

That said, we’re silly to assume those student-athletes won’t benefit because, you now, visitors deserve to do pre-game and halftime in a locker room and not a tent at soccer games and because, I don’t know, the tennis courts ought to be regulation size.

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As though no one would notice

April 8, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Than God she’s not in the flight simulator training seminar. Anyhow, lawmakers in the Buckeye State slipped something sneaky into a budget review Monday. Interesting, of course, because Northwestern ins a private school. State lawmakers say whether public schools can unionize and there aren’t many big-time private schools in Ohio, save Dayton and Xavier.

You know the saying around here: There are no coincidences.