WVU Gameday Blog

BLOG: Holgorsen talks plenty about WVU quarterbacks

Chris Chugunov’s tenure as WVU’s starting quarterback has begun in Morgantown.

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen was asked multiple questions about the quarterback situation at Tuesday’s media session, including if it’s more feasible to try to tailor the offense to Chugunov or to try to tailor him to the offense that’s already in place. Holgorsen said the offense will change some, more so choosing the first option over the latter, but said the junior quarterback does have a lot of capabilities.

“He knows what to do,” Holgorsen said. “There wasn’t anything that he did last week that he didn’t know. He’s been here for three years.”

Holgorsen happy with Chugs

The head coach said he was pleased with the way his now-starting quarterback played in the place of the injured Will Grier on Saturday against Texas.

“I was happy with the way he competed last week,” Holgorsen said. “He went in there and competed his tail off. He got knocked around a little bit and kept getting up. He knew where to go with the ball. It’s just timing and reps.”

However, he did echo his statement from after the game, saying he wished the players around him on the offensive unit would’ve rallied around Chugunov better. He said the offense needs to step up and play above themselves to a degree in order to help Chugunov this week.

‘Oh crap’

That was how Holgorsen described the reaction of the team in the immediate moments following Grier sustaining his finger injury. He talked about that being the “human element” that took over the team for the second quarter, which is to be expected and is definitely understandable.

“I can’t just pinpoint just … our whole sideline was like, ‘Oh crap,’” Holgorsen said.

What do we have to lose?

The head coach posed this question Tuesday, with the answer being nothing. West Virginia isn’t expected to win Saturday – Oklahoma is currently a 22.5-point favorite and is given a 90.4-percent chance to win according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

“I can’t remember the last time we’ve been in a situation (like this),” Holgorsen said. “What do we got to lose? Let’s go play ball. Let’s have fun. Let’s rally around Chugs. Let’s play our tails off.

“This season changes drastically if we go win this one. Nobody expects us to win.”

Thanksgiving Week

On a lighter note, Holgorsen said this is one of his favorite weeks of the year.

“It’s a football week,” Holgorsen said. “It has everything to do with just football and being with your football family.”

He said with school being out, and most students back in their hometowns, that there are fewer distractions and the team can focus just on football. Some players will go home Thursday, and those that aren’t close enough to be home with their family will be eating with teammates or coaches. This comes with the caveat that all players must be in their own beds Thursday night before the team heads to Norman on Friday.

Recruiting Opportunity

If there’s a positive outcome of not playing in the Big 12 title game next week, it’s that the WVU coaching staff can do more recruiting than they’ve been able to do the last few seasons at this time. Holgorsen said that based on the Mountaineers schedule over the past two years, that they’ve only had one week around this time of year to do recruiting.

This year, because of not playing in the conference championship game, and with the NCAA’s early signing period, Holgorsen said he and his staff has about three weeks to hit the road and talk to potential future Mountaineers and their families and high school coaches.

Blog: Holgorsen has plenty of praise for Texas defense

High praise for the Texas Longhorns (5-5, 4-3) highlighted No. 24 West Virginia (7-3, 5-2) head coach Dana Holgorsen’s meeting with the media Tuesday.

Among those kudos was calling the Texas defense the best the Mountaineers have faced this season; the latest in a long line of stout defenses that WVU has faced this year. According to the head coach, as well as assistant coaches and players, WVU has its work cut out for them this weekend, and it starts when going up against the Longhorn defense.

Versatile defense

Holgorsen highlighted the front six or seven of the Texas D. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital spoke highly of the secondary.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us, offensively,” Holgorsen said. “It’s the best defense we’ve faced.”

The head coach talked about the experience of the Longhorns on that side of the ball – noting that UT defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has, “Fifteen juniors and five seniors.”

Listed on the depth chart is a total of 17 upperclassmen, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t more waiting on the sideline. Spavital talked about the number of blitz packages that WVU could have to defend, coming from all areas of the field. Based on the talk Tuesday, Orlando should remind West Virginia fans of their own defensive coordinator, Tony Gibson, in that both will blitz on any given down if it feels right.

QB Carousel, Part 2

For the second week in a row, Gibson and company enter the week scratching their heads about which opposing quarterback they see. This week, though, it may be more of a matter of when than if.

According to coaches, listed starter Shane Buechele is more of a passer with a big arm that can run when needed. Listed backup Sam Ehlinger, who has started half of the Longhorns’ games this season, is more of an athletic quarterback that can hurt teams with his arm.

Asked how that affects game planning, Holgorsen said it can create a challenge, but mainly if the difference in quarterbacks dictates a different play calling need or strategy to stop him versus the other option.

Highly Praised Punter

Without being asked about him, Holgorsen talked about Longhorn punter Michael Dickson.

Dickson, out of Sydney, Australia, is a majority of the reason that Texas leads the nation in net punting (44.7 ypg) and is averaging over 48 yards per punt with a hang time, according to Holgorsen, that’s nearing five seconds.

That prompted Holgorsen to say this:

“Dude needs to go pro right now,” Holgorsen said. “He’s just a junior, but he needs to hurry up and get his degree and go pro. He’s that good.”

Still Looking for Consistency

When asked about his own offense, Holgorsen echoed some of the sentiments he made known after Saturday’s game, saying he wants the offense to be more consistent.

Tuesday he continued by saying that he’d like to see more consistent results on offense no matter who the Mountaineers are facing, and no matter what facet of the game you’re talking about – be it passing game, run game, blocking, etc.

Senior Week

Saturday’s game against Texas will be the final home game for the 20 seniors on the Mountaineer roster.

One oddity of this year’s senior class is that it’s split right down the middle. There are 10 fourth- and fifth-year seniors, and 10 junior college transfers. The best example of that split is with the White brothers, Ka’Raun and Kyzir. The former came to Morgantown after two years at Lackawanna College, and the latter has only played college football in the Old Gold and Blue.

“This is the end of the White era. That is sad,” Holgorsen said.

Holgorsen said his two “main guys” with this team have been Al-Rasheed Benton and Elijah Wellman, adding that the White brothers have also been special, but saying that all the seniors have been, not wanting to single or leave anyone out.

BLOG: Holgorsen talks toughness

Mental and physical toughness dominated the talking points for West Virginia head football coach Dana Holgorsen on Tuesday at his weekly media session.

Holgorsen has been on record for several weeks, saying that his team hasn’t been physical enough at times. That came to a head on Saturday when after the game he said Oklahoma State was simply more physical than the Mountaineers.

Tuesday, though, mental toughness was also a sticking point. Holgorsen took ownership, saying, “If the whole team was not in the right frame of mind, mentally, that’s 100 percent on me.”

Here are some other news and notes from Tuesday.

Determination factor

Along with the physical and mental toughness, Holgorsen talked about the determination he hopes he sees in his team this week, both from players and coaches.

“I’m as anxious as anybody to see the determination of our team.”

Another Top 15 team

Saturday’s game against No. 14 Iowa State will be West Virginia’s fourth game against an opponent that’s spent at least one week ranked inside the Top 15, and fifth total game against a ranked foe.

“Nothing like facing another Top 15 opponent,” Holgorsen said.

Change in QB, Change in success

Four weeks into the season Iowa State was sitting at 2-2 after a tough loss to Texas in which it had opportunities to win.

Since then, as Holgorsen stated, the Cyclones made a quarterback change – inserting Kyle Kempt into the starting role – and, “since then they’ve been playing so good.”

“(Iowa State’s) playing well as a full team.”

Tall on the outside

One challenge that will be presented for West Virginia on Saturday will be the height of the Cyclones’ wide receivers.

Looking at the depth chart, six of Iowa State’s pass catchers (receivers and tight ends) are listed at 6-foot-4 and taller. Eight out of 10 are listed are 6 feet or taller.

An experienced bunch

Iowa State has a pair of players on its roster in Allen Lazard and Joel Lanning that have seemingly been in Ames since WVU’s arrival in the Big 12.

But they aren’t the only ones.

The Cyclones are planning on starting 15 upperclassmen Saturday, with more experienced players waiting in the wings.

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.