The Dominion Post  

Holgorsen: Early spring camp is about teaching

Created on:   Sun, Mar 4, 2018   7:43 PM

Last modified:   Sun, Mar 4, 2018   7:42 PM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — The first week of spring practice doesn’t look a whole lot like real football, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important to the WVU coaching staff.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen used one word frequently during a media conference, on March 3, at Milan Puskar Stadium: Teaching.

“It’s a lot of teaching,” he said. “This is the first time their helmets have been on, so it’s been pretty much just non-contact and a lot of teaching. We spent a couple hours on Tuesday and a couple hours on Thursday just teaching assignment and teaching how to line up the right way and all that good stuff.”

With the addition of helmets, there can be a little more contact. The Mountaineers could also wear spider pads, a lighter and extra protective pad that acts as a wrap to prevent shoulder problems, but aren’t the full shoulder pads players wear during games and full-contact drills.

Before full contact practices, which will begin this week, spring camp is a way to get the basics out of the way before concentrating on the specifics.

Holgorsen, now in his eighth spring, thinks the teaching aspect has gotten easier, especially with the depth and experience he has back at most positions.

“We got good numbers across the board other than D-line, but that won’t affect what we do,” he said.
“We have good experience in the secondary, have a lot of linebackers to look at so we can be more multiple both offensively and defensively. That part of it is a lot of fun. Then, continuity is big, you’ve heard me talk about that a lot.”

For the first time since he returned to WVU, in 2014, defensive coordinator Tony Gibson has his entire staff back. Players know what to expect and coaches don’t have to learn how to fit in, something Gibson said has been refreshing in the early going.

“We’ve been able to go around and visit other staffs and get new ideas and study film,” he said. “We didn’t have to take a week or two to find a new coach, so that’s been huge.”

On the offensive side, it’s been a smaller transition that it was a year ago. Last spring, offensive coordinator Jake Spavital was introduced to the team for the first time, while Joe Wickline also switched roles to become the full-time offensive line coach. Tony Dews replaced Ja’Juan Seider as the running backs coach.

This year, Dews moved on to coach running backs with the Tennessee Titans. He was replaced by Marquel Blackwell, who came to WVU from Toledo.

The difference between Dews and Blackwell is that Dews coached receivers at Arizona before he was hired with the Mountaineers, while Blackwell already coached running backs with the Rockets. That has helped Blackwell’s move.

“Terminology and all of that stuff is going to be new, but it’s more important for him to understand the technique of what these running backs need,” Holgorsen said of Blackwell. “He is ahead of the curve from what Dews was a year ago. Dews was experimenting at being a running back coach. He did it for one year and now he is coaching pros at running back, so that was pretty cool.”

Blackwell is the only staff difference on offense.

“He is a football and quarterback guy — he has been in it his whole life,” Holgorsen said. “He understands offense. He got really good experience at Toledo as far as coaching really good running backs.”