WVU Gameday Blog

Holgorsen Press Conference News & Notes

Moving on from its comeback win against Texas Tech Saturday, No. 23 West Virginia (4-2) looks ahead to its road matchup against Baylor (0-6) this weekend.

Despite its winless record, the Bears appeared to be moving in the right direction, playing some tighter games as of late, including going down to the wire against Oklahoma at the end of September.

That game against a ranked team was in Waco, as is this weekend’s matchup for Matt Rhule and company. It was the other head coach, Dana Holgorsen, that talked at WVU’s media availability Tuesday.

Mystery of the Unknown

Holgorsen commented that there are a number of relative unknowns heading into this week’s contest, mostly revolving around new coaches and their schemes.

Due to the circumstances at Baylor, it’s a different coaching regime in Waco than in years’ past.

“There’s nothing from the past that I can pull from,” Holgorsen said. “This is different. We have to do a good job as a coaching staff.”

Familiar Faces

It’s not all a mystery, though.

Zach Smith returns at quarterback to make another start against the Mountaineers. Smith took over late in the season a year ago and has started each of the last four games this year for the Bears.

Offensive Skill Positions

The head coach of the Mountaineers said that Baylor is deep at running back and wide receiver.

John Lovett is the lead back for the Bears, while Denzel Mimms is the top receiver.

Holgorsen admitted that he expects Baylor to try to establish the run against his defense.

“Like I said after the game (Saturday), we’ve got to do a better job at stopping the run,” said Holgorsen.

Carrying Momentum

Asked about whether or not momentum can be carried over from game to game, the head coach said he believes it’s a confidence factor more than anything that can be transferred by a team after a comeback like his pulled off.

“I would hope that would carry over,” he said.

Carrying the Ball

A lot of attention has been paid over the last few days to the Mountaineer running game, which had its worst output of the season on Saturday.

Although he admitted he’s getting tired of talking about it, Holgorsen said that he chalks some of the poor performance up to mentality, both of his team and of Texas Tech, who’s game plan was clearly to stop the run.

He also stated that he still has a good running team, which is accurate.

Midseason All-Americans

On Monday the NCAA’s Midseason All-Americans were announced, of which there were a number of representatives from the Big 12, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

Included in that list was WVU wide receiver, David Sills.

“David’s doing a great job,” Holgorsen said. “I’m proud of him.”

Both All-American quarterbacks were Big 12 representatives, to which Holgorsen noted that it, “Says a lot of good things about the Big 12,” continuing to say that it says a lot when WVU quarterback Will Grier is having the season he is and was left off the list.

 

Holgorsen press conference news and notes

The Mountaineers must bounce back from their second loss of the season when they host Texas Tech on Saturday.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen said that his team was obviously disappointed with the seven-point loss to TCU, but they appeared to respond with good energy when they met Sunday.

Here are some other takeaways from the team’s weekly media availability:

WR depth still a question

Depth at the wide receiver position has been an issue all season but was once again shown to be an issue on Saturday when only four wideouts caught passes.

Asked about the depth, Holgorsen, talking somewhat intensely, said they’d hoped this issues would’ve been taken care of a long time ago.

“Two months ago,” he said. Then followed that by saying it needs to improve, “Now!”

Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital said inexperience of the second group of receivers does play a part into the depth issues.

Reggie Roberson appears to be the next man up.

Finishing possessions

When asked about being unable to finish drives with points in the first half Saturday, the head coach agreed that was an area they needed to improve on in that game.

He did defend his offense, and rightly so, in that they’ve been more consistent at finishing lengthy drives this year than in recent seasons.

Fifteen times this season WVU has covered at least 75 yards in on possession and scored, with only one of those drives ending with a field goal.

Holgorsen pointed out that part of the problem Saturday was four times being pinned inside the 10-yard line in the first half against a well-coached TCU defense.

TTU playing better

Any questions about what the Texas Tech offense would look like in the post-Patrick-Mahomes era have been answered. It’s just as explosive.

“Texas Tech is playing good,” Holgorsen said. “They’re playing probably as good, or better, than we’ve seen since that first year we played them.”

Texas Tech has the highest-scoring offense in the Big 12, and quarterback Nic Shimonek is averaging over 386 passing yards per game.

Even though the stats may suggest that the Red Raider defense is still doing its best to maintain the Big 12’s “lack of defense” stature, Holgorsen said they can’t be taken lightly.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us when it comes to them,” Holgorsen said. “They’re sound in what they’re doing. They’re executing very well.”

Asked about the improvement of the TTU defense, Spavital said that he’s completely stopped looking at film of last year’s defense because this year’s Red Raider defensive unit is playing so much better.

Possibility for big days

Despite the improvements on defense in Lubbock, WVU wideouts may have the chance to have their best games yet.

Spavital said that Texas Tech’s defense creates a lot of one-on-one matchups with wide receivers.

“They’ve got some confidence in their guys,” Spavital said. “It’s a scheme that, they’re going to put us (in) one-on-one battles, and we’ve got to win them all.”

According to the depth chart, the Red Raiders are only planning on playing just two defensive backs taller than exactly 6 feet tall. That could bode well for West Virginia, that has David Sills V (6-4), Ka’Raun White (6-1), Gary Jennings (6-1), and Marcus Simms (6-0) that likely have the ability to get up higher than their defenders.

Holgorsen Press Conference News and Notes

A few weeks ago Dana Holgorsen talked about the extreme familiarity between his program and his opponent’s, but Tuesday it was the common ground between TCU and WVU that he noted prior to the Top-25 showdown that will take place Saturday afternoon in Fort Worth.

“TCU is always a fun one,” he said. “I just think if you look (at) the similarities between the two programs it builds a lot of interest in this game.”

For clarity, the Mountaineer head coach was talking about how the two programs have gotten to where they are today – dominating conferences not as prominent as the current Power-5 and then more than holding their own in the Big 12.

Here are other notes from his time at the podium.

It’s a Gary Patterson Defense

TCU head coach Gary Patterson is known for defense; it’s what he’s built TCU on.

Holgorsen is obviously very aware of not only Patterson’s reputation but also the defense that he’s got this year.

“They’ve been doing the same thing defensively for 20 years,” Holgorsen said. “That’s (Patterson’s) stamp on college football.”

He continued to say that this year’s Horned Frogs defensive unit is, “as good as they’ve always been defensively, and their stats show that.”

TCU is second best in the conference in terms of total defense.

Run it good, defend it better

The Horned Frogs are best in the Big 12 at defending against the run, one of just two teams in the conference that are allowing fewer than 100 yards per game on the ground.

Two players to watch out for on Gary Patterson’s defense are Travin Howard and Ben Banogu. Howard is top 20 in the Big 12 in tackles, and Banogu is among the five best in the conference in both sacks (3) and tackles for loss (6).

Offensively, TCU is also best in the conference in the ground game, averaging well one yard more (232.2) than the Mountaineers per game.

Both teams have scored 12 times on the ground, but the Horned Frogs do run the ball slightly more than WVU does on a week-to-week basis.

Asked about combating the run game, Holgorsen said it starts up front.

“We got to do a better job up front holding gaps,” he said. “We need guys to step up and be real dudes.”

Lamont McDougle may be the one to do it, as he’s been garnering a lot of attention from the coaching staff over the past few weeks.

 

 

 

Holgorsen Press Conference News and Notes

With West Virginia having this weekend off from game action, only head coach Dana Holgorsen spoke at Tuesday media availability. He started off on a somber note, confirming that Brendan Ferns will miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury that required surgery.

The head coach said that Ferns was, “Probably our most solid special teams guy.” He is likely to miss six months and be back from spring practice.

Here are some other takeaways:

Options, Feelings with Ferns

Asked about the possibility of whether or not the program could redshirt Ferns for the remainder of the year, Holgorsen said it’s an option but something they’re going to wait on.

It’s the second-straight season he’d suffered a season-ending setback.

It was also easy to tell that Holgorsen felt bad for, and appreciates, Ferns and what he’s meant to the team.

Getting Healthy

Despite Ferns’ injury, the head coach feels good about where the team is, health-wise, saying, “We’re as healthy right now as we have been all year.”

The bye week only helps the team continue to get back to as close to full strength as possible.

Holgorsen said that this week and next they’re going to start shuffling guys around on defense as they get players back, with David Long’s name being mentioned.

The Hogmollies

Holgorsen seemed very pleased by the performance of his offensive line Saturday.

“Pressure was limited,” said the head coach. “I thought we pass protected pretty good. I thought we ran blocked pretty good as well against a decent front.”

On the flip side, he was not happy with the production from his defensive linemen, outside of Lamonte McDougle.

“He’ll probably be playing more.”

Slip and Slide

Asked about quarterback Will Grier’s ability, or lack thereof, to slide when escaping the pocket, Holgorsen said it’s something he needs to work on.

He added, laughingly, that Grier is simply bad at falling or sliding down, saying he might need to bring baseball head coach Randy Mazey over to teach sliding technique.

On the plus side, Holgorsen has consistently commended his QB’s abilities inside the pocket and knowing when to escape.

WVU returns to action next Saturday, on the road at TCU.

Holgorsen Press Conference News and Notes, Kansas Week

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen displayed a lot of respect for his team’s upcoming opponent – Kansas – during his weekly media session Tuesday.

He mentioned the familiarity between the two programs, having been conference foes for the last five years, as well as a number of coaches on both sides that have crossed paths more than once during their tenures.

“Can’t face an opponent that we know more about,” Holgorsen said.

Here are some additional notes:

WVU Getting Healthy

When asked to update the status on a few injured players, Holgorsen perked up all ears in attendance when he said players like Brandon Lingafelter, Toyous Avery and, most notably, linebacker David Long, are all progressing well in their returns from injury.

All three will make the trip to Kansas this weekend, though it remains to see if any will be active.

Grier Garners “QB Gene”

Asked about WVU’s starting quarterback, and the relationship his has with the players, Holgorsen said that Will Grier has that “starting quarterback gene” that allows him to not only be a good quarterback but also has guys gravitate towards him.

Wellman Doing Well. CFB Shift?

One player in particular that Holgorsen seems to be pleased with thus far is halfback Elijah Wellman.

The head coach stated he’s done a good job blocking and acting as a “sixth O-lineman out there.”

Along those lines, he mentioned that he has seen a shift in college football of coaches using players like Wellman more often. This is because of their athleticism and versatility of being able to get out and block, as well as pass catch, out in space.

Wellman certainly fits that mold.

Jayhawks to Watch

With a slight smile on his face, Holgorsen said he didn’t want to leave anyone out when asked to highlight a few of the key players on Kansas, saying he didn’t want to motivate any Jayhawk player he didn’t name outright.

However, he did highlight a few.

Both No. 11’s – safety Mike Lee and wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. – were highlighted.

Sims racked up a conference-best 207 all-purpose yards against SE Missouri St. Lee averages seven tackles a game.

Junior linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. paces the Big 12 in tackles with 38, nine more than any other player.

Holgorsen Press Conference News and Notes

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen during the first half/second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)

Technology is all the rage these days, and teams are taking advantage of it. West Virginia is no different, using GPS technology to track its players.

WVU meets GPS

Wide receiver Gary Jennings ran over 10 miles two weekends ago against Virginia Tech. How does the Mountaineer coaching staff know that? GPS tracking.

The Mountaineers have begun using technologies such as that in order to gauge performance from their players.

“We measure how far, how long and how hard they’re going,” WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said.

Not only are the players being gauged, but they are engaging the numbers.

Holgorsen said that players are comparing their numbers, which are posted for the team, against one another and that it’s even fueling some friendly competition within the program.

Prepping for Delaware St.

Tuesday was the first mandatory day for the Mountaineers following their 56-20 thumping of ECU on Saturday. Holgorsen said the players were given Sunday and Monday off to rest due to NCAA regulations based on the scheduling of the first two games.

Starting today, though, all focus is on the Hornets of Delaware State.

“I thought we did a good job of preparing like we always do,” Holgorsen said. “I don’t think this week will be any different (than any other).”

The head coach made it a point to address that WVU is focusing on this weekend’s game like they would any other, despite the opponent.

Areas of Improvement

Overall, Holgorsen seemed pleased with his team’s performance on Saturday, especially the first team unit on offense. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any needed improvements.

Players staying on their feet is one area. Holgorsen noted that players have to stay up right, especially those players that are supposed to be blocking.

He also felt that the second team unit missed out on some opportunities, excluding second-string QB Chris Chugunov.

“I thought he’s looked as good as he’s looked since I’ve been here,” Holgorsen said.

The need for speed

Most media members in attendance Saturday noticed the impact of wide receiver Marcus Simms, who caught one pass for a 52-yard touchdown.

Holgorsen also noticed the jolt he brings to the offense.

“What he brings to the table is… he brings speed, which we need,” Holgorsen said. “We need guys out there that can stretch things.”

However, the head coach emphasized that the wideout still needs to work on consistency.

Holgorsen Press Conference News and Notes — ECU Week

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen walks off the field after an NCAA college football game against Virginia Tech in Landover, Md., Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017. Virginia Tech won 31-24. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A chipper Dana Holgorsen said during his weekly press conference Tuesday that the first quarter of Sunday’s game against Virginia Tech was an interesting experience for him since he is no longer calling the offensive plays.

Holgorsen laughingly admitted he needed to open up an extra line of communication on his headset with Director of Player Personnel Ryan Dorchester to have someone to talk to.

Holgorsen communication

For clarity, the head coach this had to be done based on precedent that he has had within the program for some time, not wanting to muddy up communications between offensive coordinator Jake Spavital and his group, and defensive coordinator Tony Gibson and his group.

Marcus Simms update

Holgorsen said that wide receiver Marcus Simms is “ready to roll,” when asked about the sophomore’s status for this weekend’s game.

The head coach commented that Simms return to the field definitely helps.

“He’s got that speed factor,” he said, later commenting that speed is something, “We desperately need that at those wideout positions.”

Fewer designed QB runs

Asked about the plans for running quarterback Will Grier, Holgorsen said there will be fewer designed runs for him, but, that Grier has shown the ability to know when to escape instinctively.

“When the games on the line he needs to do everything and anything to get first downs. And he did,” said Holgorsen.

Grier rushed for 52 yards and scrambled for two big first downs late in the fourth quarter to keep the Mountaineer offense on the field.

For his efforts, Grier was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week.

ECU reputation not lost

Holgorsen noted East Carolina’s reputation for taking down Power 5 schools, and that doesn’t exclude the Mountaineers.

In 2008, ECU knocked off Virginia Tech and West Virginia in back-to-back weeks to begin the season.

In this Holgorsen was effectively saying even though the Pirates suffered a loss last weekend to James Madison out of the FCS – a loss that the WVU head coach noted can be looked at as legit based on JMU’s recent success – they’re not a team the Mountaineers can take lightly, especially on a short week.

Holgorsen Press Conference News and Notes

Getting tired of waiting for the start of the College Football season? So is Dana Holgorsen.

The Mountaineer head coach says he wishes the start of the regular season would be this weekend, not next.

Let’s Get Started

Going off that, Holgorsen sited that under the current NCAA guidelines, there is too much practice solely against one another, instead of the in-season game week practices, which are against the other team per se on account of scout teams.

He said the amount of downtime during practice that must be done to take player safety into account – changing padding, jerseys to denote which players are OK for contact.

“Five weeks is way too long,” He said.

 

Injury update

Marvin Gross and Corey Winfield are said to be, “progressing fine.”

Of Winfield, specifically, Holgorsen said he’s, “gonna be fine,” and that he should be back to practicing soon.

Jennings, Sills and White

Despite sounding like the three names of a law firm, they are also the last names of the starting wide receivers for the Mountaineers.

Gary Jennings, David Sills and Ka’Raun White will be the top wideouts on the depth chart.

A player that Holgorsen said is creeping up in Kennedy McKoy, who will be splitting time between the back field and the slot receiver. McKoy is said to be displaying a lot of versatility.

Got that Nehlen Feelin’

Former long time Mountaineer head coach Don Nehlen was at the football facilities Tuesday. This came less than two hours after it was announced he and former Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beemer will be honorary captains when the two teams meet up on September 3 at FedEx Field.

 

Holgorsen Press Conference News and Notes

Beginning with a suggestion to try Gatorade in a can, West Virginia football head coach Dana Holgorsen fielded questions from the media Wednesday afternoon.

Below are the biggest takeaways from the head coach:

West Virginia football head coach Dana Holgorsen addresses the media Wednesday. Photo by Ryan Decker
West Virginia football head coach Dana Holgorsen addresses the media Wednesday. Photo by Ryan Decker

Situational Drill Focused

Practice No. 10 for the Mountaineers will focus on situational execution. Red zone offense and defense, two-point conversions and special teams will be drilled the most. Holgorsen said this will be one of the final practices before getting into the more game-specific practices as the team gears up for the first game of the season against Virginia Tech.

“Still worried about us this week, still worried about us next week, and then we’ll get into Virginia Tech and try to get into a routine the following two weeks,” Holgorsen said.

 

 

Injured player updates

According to Holgorsen, Marvin Gross and Corey Winfield both have had successful surgeries and are expected to be out for a couple of weeks before returning to football activities. The head coach did say that both are, “progressing nicely,” but there is no set date for their return.

 

Inside the 20

Holgorsen said he likes what he’s seen thus far out of his wide receiving corps in the red zone. He mentioned that players such as Ka’Raun White and David Sills have emerged as potential consistent red-zone threats that the team hasn’t had over the past two years.

 

Waiting on Backups

Holgorsen mentioned that he is still waiting on viable options for backups at wide receiver and offensive line positions.

 

D is for Depth

Despite the feeling around the Big 12 being that West Virginia is once again retooling on defense, Holgorsen mentioned that he liked the depth of Tony Gibson’s group.

“A lot of depth on the D-Line, a lot of competition,” Holgorsen said. “Same thing at corner. You look at safety, we’ve got so much experience, and linebacker we have so much experience.”

 

Teaching the rivalry

When asked about informing his players on the importance and the history of the rivalry between the Mountaineers and the Hokies, the WVU head coach said he and his coaching staff are easing into the history lesson.

“Players don’t know anything (about the rivalry). It’s been (since) 2005” said Holgorsen. “It’s our job each and every week to educate our players on who the opponent is. We’ll do that more when it’s close.”

 

Listen to the remainder of Holgorsen’s remarks – picking up where the video left off – here.