PRINCETON — Nearly a month after the conclusion of spring football, WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff has had a chance to evaluate the drills and rate the strengths and weaknesses the Mountaineer gridiron program faces. With students returning to campus Tuesday for summer session of school, the fifth-year coach says the depth of the present team is the best since he took the helm.
“We played probably more snaps than any of the previous four springs that I had just simply because our numbers are better. We had over a hundred kids on the team in the spring, which is a lot. We had upward of 70 scholarship guys, 50-some guys have played (game) snaps, so just a lot of depth on both sides of the ball. We have a lot of depth and we were able to get a lot of work done because of it,” Holgorsen said.
While Holgorsen is pleased with the team’s depth, there are still concerns including how that depth with performers capable backups to the starters.
“We’re still developing backups at this point. I’ve got a pretty good idea who our starters are going to be,” Holgorsen said. “With that said, thinly way you win a championship is when a guy goes down, plug in guys in a backup role that can play in games. That’s where we are now, continuing to develop that depth. I feel good about the guys that will be starters. You play 50, 60 guys in every game so it’s not just about those starters, it’s backups as well.”
The success of the 2014 Mountaineers was due in part to a vastly improved defense. Tony Gibson, who formerly coached at WVU, returned last season as defensive coordinator. Much of the personnel from last year’s squad is back and Holgorsen is optimistic that the defense will do its job.
“The biggest thing is we’ve got a lot of guys like K.J. Dillon, Karl Joseph, Kyle Rose, Nick Kwitokowski, Jarred Barber, Isaiah Bruce, Terrell Chestnut, guys who have been here for five years, so having the continuity with Tony... he did a wonderful job in his first year, but finally having a second year defensive coordinator with all those guys that have experience, I anticipate even more improvement defensively,” Holgorsen said.
Facilities improvements are instrumental to the program and the team recently occupied its new team room in the Puskar Center. Holgorsen said more improvements in facilities is on the way.
“The next step with our facilities, Shane (Lyons) has done a good job getting us to where we address our practice situation. We’re pretty good right now with our meeting and weight rooms, academic and team centers, but we need to be able to practice better,” Holgorsen said. “Right now we’re on our game field 99 percent of the time, so it’s going to change. We’re going to start redoing practice areas. That will happen probably some time around August, to where next spring we’ll be able to use that practice facility and then we can address the game field, take the crown out and resurface that as will. That will be about a seven month process. We can’t be without a practice center for six months. Then after that we’ll work on the next one. You can only do one at a time.”
Holgorsen praised the fan support in Southern West Virginia and throughout the Mountain State.
“It’s not about me or the coaching staff. It’s about the players and the overall aspect of the program and all the support that’s generated,” Holgorsen pointed out. “That’s why I knew the Big 12 would be good for West Virginia because it’s like that in all the other Big 12 universities as well. If you go to any of the other nine schools, they care about their team and they support their team. It wasn’t necessarily like that in the Big East.”
Holgorsen and the Mountaineers open the season Sept. 5 in Morgantown against Georgia Southern.
— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline, Twitter @bdtredd