Holgorsen encouraged by morale
MORGANTOWN - In the grand scheme of things, it probably has little to do with blocking or tackling or any of the technical aspects of football. But after four practices spread over the first eight days of West Virginia's spring drills, Dana Holgorsen has discovered something he really likes.
Call it enthusiasm or morale or any of a number of other things, but so far the Mountaineers seem to have it.
That doesn't come as a surprise to Holgorsen, but it does register as a big positive.
"I had a sense that morale was high,'' Holgorsen said Sunday night after the fourth of his team's 15 spring workouts. "From the eight weeks in the off-season, we were around them the last four weeks quite a bit in meetings and watching the competition and weightlifting and team runs. And you could sense these guys were excited about what was going on.
"Then you add some defensive coaches [four of the five are new] and I sense that these guys are pretty fired up about being here and pretty fired up about playing the game and being eager to learn. I sensed it, but after watching four practices, I've verified it.''
There is, of course, much more to spring drills than just enthusiasm. Sunday was the team's second day in pads and it was far more physical than the first, which also pleased Holgorsen. A defense that is starting almost from scratch as far as schemes go is "being spoon fed,'' he said, but is still showing promise.
For instance, Holgorsen lauded safety Travis Bell for a pair of interceptions during team drills Sunday, but also cautioned that there is a long way to go. He said a portion of Sunday's practice was dedicated to third-down situations and the offense converted roughly half its opportunities.
"From an offensive perspective, that's good,'' Holgorsen said. "From a defensive perspective, it's not so good.''
But aside from all of the nitty-gritty work being done - improving offensive and defensive execution, finding players to plug into holes, adding quality depth - perhaps one of the most important things being accomplished is developing that camaraderie.
Holgorsen said it has existed all along, but it also has to be maintained.
Players have to remain excited about coming to work.
"I told them after practice, 'You guys are crazy if you didn't take advantage of this practice to get better,' ' Holgorsen said. "They had a bunch of meetings and a bunch of practice time and if they didn't take advantage of it, there's something wrong with them. And I think for the majority, they did get something out of it.''
That's part of the reason Holgorsen will not have practices on back-to-back days through the spring. The normal routine is Sunday-Tuesday-Thursday and after this Thursday's workout there is a near two-week stoppage while the school in on spring break.
"You're really not wearing them out because you're not prepping for a game,'' Holgorsen said. "You're trying to make yourselves, your unit and the team better at football. That's what the overall objective of spring is and if you're broken down or worn out you won't get that accomplished.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1