Tricky Tony Gibson

April 16, 2014 by Mike Casazza

We talked only very briefly online …

and in print about this little wrinkle Tony Gibson was ready to iron out in Saturday’s spring game. It’s really not too exotic, but it is effective and there is a purpose for the presence. And Gibson did indeed use it in the scrimmage, though with an added twist. He went 11 up, zero down. Because Twitter happened!

(Probably not, but that’s pretty funny. I simply typed in “Tony Gibson” in my Tweet and didn’t know it would auto-fill with his Twitter handle because I guess Gibby follows me. That in turn sent him a ton of notifications every time the thing was retweeted or commented on that afternoon, and I feel bad about that nuisance he did not need. I should probably know to be extra careful on Twitter now, huh?)

We talked a lot about the defense in the spring, though there were plenty of plots to follow on the field and on the sidelines. At the end, it seems the defense is trending the right way and will follow the lead of what might be a pretty good secondary.

Hits keep coming for Mike Carey

April 15, 2014 by Mike Casazza

In a superlative season full of firsts, West Virginia’s women’s basketball coach can now say this special season also produced the highest WNBA draft pick in school history. Asya Bussie was picked No. 15 overall (in the second round) by the Minnesota Lynx.

They won the 2013 and 2011 titles, by the way, and might be favored to win again after adding a two-time honorable mention All-American.

“I can’t even put into words how excited and blessed I am,” Bussie said. “I was nervous all day, I woke up nervous, and I’m glad to know where I’m going. I’m excited to be playing with Minnesota with some great players like Monica Wright, Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus. It’s a great team.”
The Lynx used their second pick of four chances to get Bussie on their roster. The Randallstown, Md., native is WVU’s highest WNBA Draft pick in program history. The previous highest drafted player from the WVU women’s basketball team was All-American point guard Yolanda Paige who went in the second round as the 16th overall pick of the 2005 draft. All-American Olayinka Sanni went as the No. 18 pick of the second round in the 2008 WNBA Draft, while Kate Bulger was chosen No. 38 overall in the 2004 WNBA Draft.
“It’s shocking to me that I’m the highest pick in program history,” Bussie explained. “That is a great honor and it goes with the theme of this past year– just to make program history.”

Say hello to our new friend

April 15, 2014 by Mike Casazza

(Original title: “Say hello to our little friend.” Because this is about a reserve punter from southern West Virginia. But he’s 6-2 and 215. And at WVU, punters are not little. So, yeah, scratch that. But we had to do something on this kid because Houstin Syvertson has had our attention for eight months now.)

No spring football season is without its stories or without its players who are able to get just a small opportunity and make a big splash with it. For 2014 at WVU, meet Huey the Punter, the former walk-on third-string punter who is now a reserve linebacker and who got lit up by some running backs on one play and then leveled Skyler Howard a series later.

Do we expect great things our of HTP? Probably not, but he gave us a great moment in the spring game.

Speaking of Dustin Garrison …

April 15, 2014 by Mike Casazza

If not for Wendell Smallwood, isn’t Garrison the best running back from the spring? If there is no No. 4, did No. 29 have the best spring for a skill position player? I might say yes, but only because of the two times I saw him and the one time a proxy relayed tales of Garrison’s performance in Charleston.

What we can agree on is that, not entirely unlike Logan Moore, most people probably didn’t see this coming.

There was Smallwood surging and Dreamius Smith returning and Rushel Shell debuting and, you know, finite snaps available. Again, not unlike quarterback. Throw in prodigal Andrew Buie and mix it all with the memories of Garrison jogging into the middle of the line two years ago and in street clothes most of last season and, well, it did not bode well.

Yet there he is. He’s not the starter but he’s not just another guy. (Not unlike the situation at quarterback. OK, I’ll stop that now. I trust you see the point.) JaJuan Seider said Garrison did everything he needed to do in the spring, which is pretty high praise from that guy.

Seider, as we know, has to manage a lot of players and he has to make room for another over the summer. He’s purposefully hard on his players and it can be hard to draw a deep compliment out of him. That’s his style, and it works, and that’s important because part of creating eventual separation includes creating initial balance. He’ll have his hands full this season.

Anyhow, back to Garrison: How has it happened? Physically, he’s fine. It would seem he’s also mentally reassured, and for two reasons.

1) Dana Holgorsen brought up the topic of a medical redshirt last season.

2) In doing so, Holgorsen told Garrison he shouldn’t have played in 2012 and should have taken a medical redshirt as he recovered from the ACL he tore days before the Orange Bowl.

That’s all useful. The first reminded Garrison he was not forgotten and that WVU did value his future. The second served as affirmation that the disappointment of the 2012 season was more about the knee than the skills, and that in a deeper backfield, he wouldn’t have been forced into action.

But life’s weird. Had he redshirted that season, he wouldn’t have been able to take one last season. And perhaps more  importantly, had he redshirted in 2012, he wouldn’t have played and learned to run differently, and almost out of necessity. Without that, he probably isn’t running as hard inside as he is now.

“I pushed my body to the limits, and it showed on the field,” he said. “I wasn’t as agile or as athletic as I felt like I should have been, but it helped me get prepared mentally for this. It helped me run a lot harder, like I do now, just going through that process being 60 percent 75 percent, and still trying to grind out three yards. I learned a lot throughout that season. I learned a lot about myself.”

Takes one to know one

April 14, 2014 by Mike Casazza

You could ask a coach or even the player himself how and what Andrew Buie did for himself in the spring at WVU, his first taste of football since he walked away from the team last summer, and you could probably accurately anticipate the responses. Buie did all right Saturday and he played a bit of inside receiver, but he’s also probably trailing Rushel Shell, Dreamius Smith, Wendell Smallwood and Dustin Garrison — and you wonder how much of Buie’s activity Saturday was due to Smith’s absence from the game.

Or you could go to a person who knows Buie quite well, to say nothing of adverse conditions and obstacles to overcome to make an impression on offense.


Who won? Everyone!

April 14, 2014 by Mike Casazza

People keep saying that was Dana Holgorsen’s fourth spring game, which is technically true, but it was his third as the head coach. What it was for certain was the first time the offense beat the defense since the 2011 spring game offensive coordinator has been the head coach.

And, boy, you can’t help but get the idea Isaiah Bruce didn’t like playing outside linebacker last season.

Logan Moore: Troublemaker?

April 14, 2014 by Mike Casazza

There is a thought out there — and it is the middle of April, of course, and people are interested in selling all sorts of wares, whether in print or in hope — that Logan Moore is in the mix to play quarterback at West Virginia. We have extremes in that camp, as is the case when one is so bold, but there are some who think he can sustain his surge through the summer and then camp, and there are others who think he’ll be in a position to be available in the fall.

So one of our takeaways from the spring is that Moore gave WVU’s coaches a problem they must deal throughout this portion of the offseason. That’s a good development. Was he, or can he be, good enough to keep around at QB? Is he athletic enough and familiar enough with the offense that he could play receiver and shore up some depth, talent and productivity issues there?

That’s at least interesting and at most unexpected, no matter how it turns out in a few months.

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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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