Football updates

June 25, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Dana Holgorsen and his assistant coaches and players were available for brief interviews today, and the head coach talked for about 10 minutes. There wasn’t much to say, except that things are going swimmingly and the coaches are about to take a few weeks off for vacation. He shored up some other details, as well. More players can arrive over the weekend an enroll Monday. There’s another enrollment date three weeks later. Players report Aug. 2 and practice starts a day later. Malik Greaves actually left the team because of persistent hip injuries and will receive a medical hardship waiver, meaning he’ll stay on scholarship and won’t count toward WVU’s limit of 85. Tyler Tezeno is off to Sam Houston State. Jaylon Myers is academically ineligible, meaning he’s done with the Mountaineers.

Sleepy days. No word on what’s happening with WVU’s quarterbacks, but I think I can give you a pretty good idea.

Next you’ll say there’s no Easter Bunny

June 25, 2015 by Mike Casazza

This is the time of the year when there are no games and when players and coaches retreat into the background of meeting rooms and workouts and occasional vacations. The lights and the ink instead go to administrators and decision-makers, and this is how mole hills grow (See: Big 12’s sportsmanship initiative). So what you get is a lot of meetings and a lot of commissioners and presidents/chancellors and athletic directors touring or speaking or both. Suddenly Shane Lyons is advocating for Big 12 expansion, though he never really said that.

“There’s a presidential committee that’s kind of looking at that as well, but as athletic directors, we try to look at the bigger picture of what actual teams and partners we could bring in that would add value to the conference and that’s still being explored,” Lyons said.

“I’m in favor of expansion if it’s the right two teams to bring in,” he continued. “Obviously for us, it would be nice to have more of an eastern partner, but at the same time, I want to make sure it’s the right partner and from a revenue standpoint it doesn’t impact us negatively as well by bringing additional partners in.”

See what happens? I mean, do you see what happens? (Seriously, one of them says WVU will lead the charge!) Well, yesterday was another day, and this time Oklahoma president David Boren, who loves to talk, said he’d like to see the Big 12 expand in the interest of “living up to our name,” which is maybe the worst reason to expand.

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Juwan Staten trivia … unfortunately?

June 24, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Even if you’re just tuning in, you probably know Juwan Staten most likely won’t be drafted tomorrow night. The reservations the NBA has about his game are clear, and even in this 11th hour evaluators seem to say the same: Great kid, great leader, but no higher than the 50s, if it happens at all.

Yet there’s always hope, and that team in Cleveland has a few connections — and it is worth noting it’s the day before the draft and the Cavaliers made that call. Anyhow, Mike Gansey runs the D-League team, and I’ve spoken to a couple scouts who believe Staten would be a great D-League point guard just to make sure the offenses there run smoothly and the players around him develop properly. (The same scouts think Staten’s best career is spent in Europe, where he’d be a dynamo with the ball.) Of course, there’s also Staten’s link to LeBron James, as well.

Mentioned within that bond is Staten’s appearance at LeBron’s skills academy last year, where he was something of a novelty.

When Staten looked around at the participants in Las Vegas, he realized he was the only player to attend both. He understood it said a lot about his career and his ongoing quest after four years, an unhappy freshman season at his hometown University of Dayton, a season on the sideline after transferring to West Virginia, a sophomore season below his expectations and a spectacular comeback as a junior.

“I just looked at it as another blessing,” the Mountaineers’ senior point guard said. “So many people went to that camp when I was in high school. Some of them have done big things and are in the NBA and some have fallen by the wayside. I felt pretty good about being on the right track and headed in the right direction.”

That direction forks tomorrow night, and should Staten not hear his name called, well, there’s a bit of history attached to that, too.

Detroit, what?

June 24, 2015 by Mike Casazza

I remember the first time I did yoga. Actually, the first time I decided I was going to do yoga. I don’t remember the exact words, but I clearly recall what I thought: This can’t be hard. Can’t. I’ll just do it.

So I did it and, holy moly, that was hard. Was. It was the worst part of P90X and it made me look forward to the other days in the cycle. Just brutal. But then I got the hang of it, and it got to be, well, I wouldn’t say easy, but it was enjoyable. Before long, I was getting something out of it.

I bring this to you today because JaJuan Seider is doing yoga.

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Indispensable or most indispensable?

June 23, 2015 by Mike Casazza

No one’s going to argue with the statement Karl Joseph is an indispensable part of West Virginia’s ought-to-be-pretty-good defense in the fall. The guy just hasn’t come off the field much the past three seasons, and you get the feeling that wouldn’t be the case if he wasn’t so darned indispensable.

But is he the most indispensable player? would argue yes.

Not only is Joseph a key leader on one of the Big 12’s most experienced returning defenses, his absence would leave a void that would be tough to replace. No player on the Mountaineers roster — or quite possibly the entire Big 12 — brings Joseph’s combination of starting experience, explosive hitting and desire to the table.

True, all of it. But are we to agree or no? What if he missed a half or a game or games? I happen to think WVU really likes Jarrod Harper, and he’s played a fair share for someone in Joseph’s shadow through the years. I don’t know that Jeremy Tyler, who pushed Dravon Henry as much as was possible in the spring, would be able to make the move, but he’s played more defense than Harper, and he has the full faith of the staff.

The point is: There are options.

I don’t know that that’s true everywhere else on the defense. What happens if Kyle Rose is out? Who gets any semblance of pass rush if Noble Nwachukwu has to miss time? Do you really trust the depth at corner of Daryl Worley or Terrell Chestnut can’t go? I think that’s interesting to consider.

And then there’s this: ESPN’s exercise is supposed to figure out who’s the must-have, can’t-lose player on the entire roster. It’s a tough assignment, and Joseph is a worthy call, but given the workload, doesn’t Josh Lambert merit consideration? Imagine the chain reaction if Adam Pankey is hurt. Ditto Tyler Orlosky. And what of the quarterback position?

I suppose there are two ways to look at this, and it’s no different here (in June) than it is at so many other places: WVU is either fortunate to have so many important pieces who are hard to replace … or WVU doesn’t have all the answers a team needs to possess in order to navigate a season and all it offers.

Leftovers from Mike Burchett

June 22, 2015 by Mike Casazza

I didn’t have any space in print for this update from G.A./quarterbacks coach Mike Burchett, but he’s keeping busy with WVU’s quarterbacks in the summer: Skyler Howard, William Crest, David Sills and Chris Chugunov.

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Whoa, a tight ends coach!

June 22, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Technically speaking, Dana Holgorsen has no room — and no need? — for a tight ends coach. Have a look yourself. But on that list of graduate assistants, and in the spirit of busy Mike Burchett, is a tight ends coach. He’s Dan Gerberry, a former all-conference player at Ball State and five-year pro in the NFL. He was a center then and now is in the middle of a room handling the team’s tight ends all by himself.

The twist here, though, is that a year ago he was a full-time assistant coach in charge of the tight ends at Youngstown State. Things went sideways and the Penguins cleaned house, leaving Gerberry, married not yet one year, figuring out his life and his career on the fly.

“You know what you’re getting into with this career,” Gerberry said. “It is what it is. The best coaches in the world get fired, and if you haven’t been fired, you haven’t been coaching long enough. I’ve been fortunate. I caught a bad break, but at the same time I’ve caught good breaks, too.”

Gerberry married in February 2014. Less than a year later, he and wife Jaclyn’s immediate future was as uncertain as the bouquet toss.

“There were a lot of nights with long conversations. ‘What are my options? What are we going to do? What’s best for us?,’ ” Gerberry said.

He found some possibilities and some found him. He said he never closed the door on any opportunity that would keep him in football and on his career path, but there were times when he and his wife would ask one another what was worthwhile.

“Every coach has to have that talk,” Gerberry said. “There’s a possibility that even great coaches will lose their jobs and not have another offer, so whether it’s a tiny thing you have to think about, whether it’s you can’t move your family for a job offer or the offer just isn’t really feasible, you have to at some point in your career sit down and look at your backup plan.

“Then the West Virginia offer came on the table, and it was a no-brainer. I would have been foolish to pass it up.”

Don’t trash-talk me

June 19, 2015 by Mike Casazza

I’m away for the day and back on Monday, so don’t go too hard on me. Then again, boy, do I miss rivalries. If not for this sick burn — so sick I had to rush it to MedExpress — then this from Texas A&M chancellor John Sharp would be the sickest burn in a long time.

Damn. Poor Texas. Fire coming from every direction, and the tenor of that take up against this bludgeoning of the athletic director makes you pity the Longhorns and skip past the fact Texas A&M is not all that … bowl wins against suspect Big 12 squads not withstanding. But when enemies square off, in any forum, you oooh and aaah over the biggest punches, never mind who’s winning the fight.

We pine for that sort of animosity, though. And I’m getting a feeling we’re a long, long way from getting Pitt back into our lives and restoring what the Backyard Brawl meant to us in our different roles in life.

A while back, we wondered how and when WVU and Pitt could play again. Our best guess was 2022. It’s still possible.

This  is promising because 1) it’s farcical Pitt would work with Cincinnati before WVU and 2) Pitt is working on scheduling holes in that 2022 neighborhood. I know WVU wants to make this happen — “Without a doubt,” he said, “we’d love to reignite the Backyard Brawl.” — and I still think the Mountaineers would take a one-off neutral-site game at Heinz Field, and if a sponsor gets involved in that, some of the financial weight is off the Panthers.

So we think 2022 works because WVU has five Big 12 home games and can go on the road. The Panthers have room to work with,  as well, and home games are always welcome.

There’s a whisper lately about 2017, because both teams have room to make it work, but I still wonder about that. WVU’s playing four Big 12 home games and plays host to ECU in non-conference play and plays Virginia Tech at FedEx Field. It has to be in Morgantown for it to make any sense, and Pitt has room for a road game, but Pitt also plays at Penn State and at home against Oklahoma State. I doubt the Panthers add a road game against another Big 12 team. I suppose at WVU in 2017 and at Pitt in 2022 is possible.

That said, it seems imminent Shane Lyons and Pitt’s new AD meet soon and get this rivalry back on the field. If they want to insult one another a few times along the way, that’s fine by me.


Swords down

June 18, 2015 by Mike Casazza

From out of the blue, and a without much detail, is news West Virginia Radio Corp. and WVU have settled their lawsuits against one another and agreed to dismiss the proceedings.

There isn’t much to this and there isn’t much more I can tell. I’m frankly surprised it’s been done-ish for two months now with no mention of this before yesterday, though I can explain and offer a theory. I’m more surprised that many of the people I’ve spoken to the past 30 or so hours were caught unaware of this and without any reaction.

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Show of hands!

June 18, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Who among us has spent some idle time during this most idle time on our calendar giving great thought to even minor items concerning WVU football? As I expected. These are the things I think about, not only to fill my free time, but to help fill a sports section. I, and maybe we, keep coming back to one: The way Dana Holgorsen restructured his coaching staff this offseason.

If you whittle away and get to the core, you find he lost an offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach to be the same at Kentucky, replaced that piece with someone from the FCS level who became the team’s third defensive line coach, lost one of the other two defensive line coaches to the defensive coordinator position at UCLA and replaced that person by promoting a defensive graduate assistant to be the boss on special teams.

Read that all again. It’s very unusual.

Is it bad? Is it that bad? I could argue both sides capably, but I think I’d have more success saying it isn’t too large of a concern.

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