West Virginia University head football coach Dana Holgorsen held his first press conference of the 2013 regular season yesterday. In his opening statements Holgorsen remarked that he was uncertain of what his football team did well on offense. Few, if any, of the skill position players on offense have played in a game for the Mountaineers.
Holgorsen also stated that his football team would prepare to play William & Mary the same way they would prepare to play Alabama in the opener next season and Marshall in the season opener last year. Holgorsen added the preparation would be the same for Oklahoma in the second game this season.
Those statements beg the question, if a coach is not sure how his team will perform how can they prepare the same? Last season the Mountaineer offense had experience, next year the offense will be far more experienced. An inexperienced offense entering it's second game is more experienced too.
When asked, Holgorsen said that even if he knew what his offense did well he wouldn't tell anyone. Coach speak is alive and well in Morgantown. Holgorsen and his staff are not the type of coaches to enter a football season undecided about the abilities of their players.
There may be questions of how those particular players might perform in front of 65,000 fans, that is no doubt the only question Holgorsen, and his staff, need to answer. They know enough to decide which of the players on this team will redshirt for this season, barring injury to other players:
Andrew Buie, Running Back
Ellijah Wellman, Wide Receiver
Marcell Lazard, Offensive Lineman
Grant Lingafelter, Offensive Lineman
Jacky Marcellus, Offensive Lineman
Tyler Tezeno, Offensive Lineman
Stone Underwood, Offensive Lineman
Darrien Howard, Defensive Line
Shelton Gibson, Linebacker
d'Vante Henry, Linebacker
Isaaac McDonald, Linebacker
Earlier in fall practice, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson and Holgorsen expressed their displeasure with the inside receiving corps. Those receivers have worked their way out of the proverbial doghouse. Jordan Thompson, Mario Alford, and Devonte Mathis will all see playing time on Saturday.
There will be decided differences on how those inside receivers are used this season compared to last. The depth at running back is much better for 2013 than it was in 2012. Because of personnel groupings if Holgorsen adds a running back, H-Back, or tight end the inside receiver must come to the sideline.
Last year with Tavon Austin at inside receiver, and arguably the most talented player on offense, removing him from the line-up for another player seemed ludicrous. That problem no longer exists. While the current group of inside receivers are no doubt talented, none seem ready to post the gaudy numbers or produce the number of game changing plays.
Tavon Austin is a tough act to follow. The depth in the running back position shows the most promise in replacing the Lion's share of Austin's production from last season. Instead of one player posting those numbers as many as nine will take on that task.
Or put differently, a defense will not be able to key on one player at one position. Instead, it will need to focus on three positions and nine different players. Add an effective running game to the equation and the problem facing those opposing defenses expands exponentially.
Holgorsen stated he is uncertain which of the two quarterbacks still competing for the starting job on Saturday will actually run out onto the field. Paul Millard and Clint Trickett have three practices this week to state their case as that player.
Holgorsen added that he would like the ability to give all of his quarterbacks snaps in the season opener. It is those plays in a game that separated Millard and Trickett from redhsirt freshman Ford Childress. In other words Holgorsen has a plan for getting Childress the game reps he is lacking.
Holgorsen also gave defensive coordinator Keith Patterson a vote of confidence when he stated that he was excited to see the defense perform on Saturday. That is coach speak telling Patterson he has done a good job and Holgorsen believes in his plans for the defense.
That appears like a lot of plans from a coach that isn't sure about the ability of his players to perform in a game. Coach speak is a wonderful thing when you've been languishing through an off-season that felt as long as this one. While it may never truly go away throughout an off-season, coach speak during a game week press conference is on another level, it transcends anything the off-season can present.
Football season is upon us, and while I am certain to change my perception as the season progresses, coach speak is alive and well at the Puskar Center. I can only welcome that development with open arms.