MORGANTOWN - It's one of those good news-bad news deals that are always tough to figure out when a football team practices.
If the offense does well is it because the defense stinks? And if the defense clamps down, how much of it is a tribute to offensive ineptitude?
One of the main points of emphasis in a Dana Holgorsen practice is ball security. West Virginia running backs and receivers do endless drills to address the matter. But, at the same time, so too does the defense practice taking it away.
Holgorsen has not been terribly impressed lately with the ball security shown by his receivers.
"It's a never-ending problem. About the time that you think all of them have really good ball security and you let things go and you go backwards and put the ball on the ground a little bit,'' Holgorsen said. "If you come to any of our practices you are going to hear it from every one of our offensives coaches. If they see the ball removed from [the players'] bodies at all, they are going to say something about it.
"We have had the ball on the ground a couple of times. But defensively it's been a huge emphasis for us. We work on it at the end of practices. You see me congratulate a whole bunch of defensive guys when they get the ball out. It's a combination - offensively, we need to keep that ball tight and we yell at the guy that puts it on the ground, but then we quickly congratulate the guy that got it out. It's a double-edged sword.''
Holgorsen is an offensive guy - he remains the offensive coordinator in addition to being the head coach - but he doesn't care which side comes out in better shape with turnovers as long as it isn't always the same side.
"In a game, you aren't playing each other so you want both to happen. It's one of those deals where you have to practice against each other all of the time,'' Holgorsen said. "For a good team, you want one side to win for a little bit and then the other side to come back and win a little bit. If you have a lot of that going on then you're probably going to be all right. If it's a one-sided mess then you're probably not very good.''
Tyler Bitancurt and Corey Smith battle every day for the kicking job. It is Bitancurt's to lose, but after his slump of last season that could happen if he slips at all.
After making 13 of 15 field goals and all 41 PATs as a freshman - earning him first-team All-Big East honors - Bitancurt made just 10 of 17 field goals and missed an extra point as a sophomore.
Smith is the transfer from Alabama who sat out last year and is expected to be the punter. But he's also kicking placements and kickoffs.
"There's competition and we'll continue to evaluate them,'' Holgorsen said. "There isn't a rush. The best way to get guys better is competition. We'll let those guys keep competing and we'll figure it out here in another week or so.''
Holgorsen said freshman kicker Sam Richardson isn't in the equation.
Blocks are still a bit of an issue with the field goal/PAT unit - three in the last two days after two more were blocked Thursday - but it's getting better. And, like the fumbling issue there are two sides to the story.
"We coach the heck out of it now. We aren't happy with it, but over three days we've had one block and one nick,'' Holgorsen said. "Is that acceptable? No. Is it a little bit attributed to our defense being lined up well, going after it, hard coaching and coming off of the ball? We're happy with how they are coaching them defensively, and offensively we need to keep working on it.
"Our operation time is slightly slow right now, both the first and second group. We'll speed that up.''