Archive for July, 2012
Starter (A-Back): Dustin Garrison (5-foot-9, 166 pounds; Sophomore)
Garrison was held out of the Discover Orange Bowl last season after tearing his ACL a few days before the game, but before that he was the running back that head coach Dana Holgorsen had been looking for to step in and fill the void as a consistent force in the running game. His breakout game as a freshman came in his first career start against Bowling Green, when he picked up 291 of the 742 yards he gained as a freshman.
Even with his injury last season causing him to miss spring practice, Garrison has a very good shot of entering the 2012 season as the Mountaineers’ starter at the “A” running back position. His ability to run the ball well, as well as catch the ball out of the backfield, make him a great complement to West Virginia’s impressive passing attack. But he won’t just be given the starting job, he’ll have plenty of competition to beat out if he wants to be the starter.
Backup (A-Back): Shawne Alston (5-foot-11, 235 pounds; Senior)
If anybody was able to benefit from the extra reps they got to see while Garrison was hurt in the Orange Bowl and during spring practice, it was Alston.
Holgorsen said at Big 12 Media Day that the coaches and his teammates call Alston “The Boss,” and has repeatedly stated the fact that the big back out of Hampton, Va. is incredibly hard to take down when he gets going. After not scoring a touchdown in his first two seasons at West Virginia, Alston reached paydirt enough for all three seasons in 2011, scoring 12 touchdowns as the Mountaineers’ go-to guy in short yardage and goal line situations. He used that success and the extra reps in practice to help him improve even more during the spring and now has what looks like a decent shot of taking the job from Garrison with an impressive showing during camp.
Third-String (A-Back): Andrew Buie (5-foot-9, 187 pounds; Sophomore)
Probably the most highly touted of West Virginia’s three freshmen running backs heading into the 2011 season, Buie had a little bit of trouble adjusting to the college level at first last season. He earned to starts in the early part of his freshman season, but his inability to hold onto the ball eventually caused him to get passed up on the depth chart by players like Garrison and Vernard Roberts, who has since transferred from WVU.
Like Alston though, Buie stepped up and showed glimpses of his potential when Garrison went down with his injury. He carried the ball 13 times during the Orange Bowl, including one of the more impressive plays of the game when he was able to roll up on top of a Clemson defender without his knee touching the ground and keep going to put the Mountaineers in good position to score early on.
The “A” position will definitely be an interesting battle to watch with Buie, Garrison and Alston all fighting it out to be No. 1 on the depth chart when the Marshall game comes around this fall.
Starter (B-Back): Ryan Clarke (6-foot, 231 pounds; Senior)
After struggling during camp heading into his junior season, Clarke saw his role decrease significantly in 2011. After getting 140 carries during his freshman and sophomore seasons, Clarke didn’t receive a single carry as a junior and was delegated to being strictly a blocked in the limited time that he saw on the field.
But with an impressive spring, it looks like Clarke has emerged to be on the verge of beginning to get carries once again as he enters his final season in Morgantown. The big thing he will have to prove as the Mountaineers prepare to start camp in a few days is that he will be able to handle those carries without fumbling and giving the ball to the other team. That’s what hurt him heading into last year.
Starter: Geno Smith (6-3, 214 – Sr., – Miramar HS, Miami, Fla.)
The expectations couldn’t be any higher for Geno Smith entering his second season under head coach Dana Holgorsen. More and more preseason accolades seem to come in every day for Smith, who was named Big 12 Conference preseason Offensive Player of the Year and named to the Walter Camp, Maxwell, Davey O’Brien and Peyton Manning Award watch lists this summer. He is also a strong early contender for the Heisman Trophy. Smith, who thrived last year under Holgorsen, throwing for 4,385 yards and 31 touchdowns, now has what most call the “full grasp” of the offense. Smith has nine returning starters around him, which leaves no excuses for not executing.
At Big 12 Media Day in Dallas, Smith showed up looking much bigger, saying he’s added close to 25 pounds to the above mentioned 214. Smith is ready to compete.
In Dallas Smith said, “I’m a better player. I’ve gotten bigger, I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve gotten faster. I’m Smarter.”
Having watched Smith develop, there is very little that he had to work on during the offseason. He probably has to protect the football a little better when he’s back in the pocket. Sometimes he holds the ball and is left prone for a defensive end or a linebacker to strip it away, but other than that Smith is ready to roll. Geno could have a huge 2012 campaign. His numbers will be massive just like other quarterbacks in their second season under Dana Holgorsen.
While Holgorsen was at Texas Tech in 2007, Graham Harrell threw for 5,705 yards (1,200 more yards than 2006) and 48 touchdowns during his second full season in the system. And then in 2009, while Holgorsen was at Houston, Case Keenum threw for 5,671 yards (400 more yards than 2008) and 44 touchdowns. There is the proof for why Geno Smith’s will improve.
Smith enters 2012 as perhaps the Big 12’s best player. He’ll have the whole season to prove while he is. But as Holgorsen knows, Smith won’t be remembered for his stats.
“He progressed and he’s got a chance to be pretty good. He stacks up with a lot of the other guys I’ve had in the past,” Holgorsen said. “Ultimately it’s how many games you win and him going into his senior year. He’s going to be remembered for how many games you win.”
Backup: Paul Millard (6-1, 221 – So., – Flower Mound HS, Flower Mound, Texas)
Last year in mop-up time, Millard came into the game and looked anything but great. Clearly a little overwhelmed as a true freshman, Millard experienced some growing pains during the four games he played in. His best moment was throwing a 30-yard touchdown pass to Brad Starks to cap a 55-10, West Virginia win against Norfolk State in the second game of the season.
But that memory is well in the rearview mirror, because most can easily recall the interception he threw against Clemson in the Orange Bowl. That play prompted Holgorsen to put Geno Smith back in a game that was well beyond wrapped up.
Since then Millard has had to deal with true freshman Ford Childress giving him pressure for the backup role in 2012. Millard has handled it well, performing better than expected during spring ball.
Millard showed his progression by understanding the offense better. Anyone on the roster or on the coaching staff always acknowledged the improvements Millard made during spring practice. He even threw a touchdown in the spring game.
If Millard uses his experience and toughness on the field than there is zero reason to believe that Childress can take his job as the backup quarterback.
Third String: Ford Childress (6-5, 224 – Fr., Kinkaid HS, Houston, TX)
Things could be much different if Childress didn’t get arrested for a DUI on the day before WVU’s Gold-Blue Spring Game. As arguably the best recruit in West Virginia’s recruiting class, a lot of people wanted to see what Childress would be able to do in the spring game. If Childress would have played and shined in that game, he could have entered fall camp with a great chance of passing up Millard as the team’s backup quarterback. But after his arrest, it looks like the Houston native could end up redshirting with Millard spending another season as Smith’s understudy.
It is clear that Childress has a ton of talent. Seeing him just throw the ball during spring practice, it easy to see the potential that the gunslinger has. But with that, he won’t see the field in 2012, so it isn’t worth wasting a year of eligibility with him on the sideline holding a clipboard. It’ll be better for Holgorsen and the program to redshirt Childress. If Holgorsen does that, it will really give Childress a chance to mature.
While he’ll likely not be the backup in 2012, Childress should definitely compete with Millard for the starting job in 2013.
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The Cyclones’ linebackers, Jake Knott and AJ Klein make up arguably the toughest linebacker core in the country. Last season Klein led the Cyclones in tackles with 116 tackles, he also added 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and one interception. His counterpart, Knott compiled 115 tackles, four tackles for loss, and two interceptions. With these two, people will start to recognize what Iowa State has done on defense.
About having defensive talent at Iowa State, Knott said, “It is definitely a rarity in the Big 12, but it’s good for Iowa State and good for publicity. It is kind of nice to see that defensive players in the Big 12 still get recognized.”
If Knott and Klein put together a season similar to what they did last season, it’ll be hard not to recognize what the two linebackers bring to the table.
“It is nice to have that type of ability to be seen, even though most people assume Big 12 offense, we can kind of go out there and prove them differently,” Knott added.
Iowa State head coach, Paul Rhoads, knows Klein and Knott are ready to shine again.
Rhoads said, “They’re prototype. They’re 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3, 245 pounds. They can run and they’re intelligent and they are tough, and the expectations are high for good reason.”
Knott also knows that he isn’t satisfied with the season he had last year. He has been working on the little things to improve.
“You got to get better at the little things, and do whatever you can to stay healthy. There are a lot of little things that really go into it. If you’re not going to do that, you will never make it from good to great,” Knott said.
Catching Up with Paul Rhoads
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The Wildcats were voted sixth in the Big 12 preseason Media Poll, behind Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma State and TCU in that order.
I had Kansas State a third in the poll I submitted. This is a team that had ten wins last season and finished second in the conference. Under Bill Snyder, there is no reason for this team to finish sixth or lower.
At the conference media days some people around the conference acknowledged and reacted to Kansas State finishing sixth in the poll.
West Virginia Head Coach Dana Holgorsen chimed in and said, “Ridiculous. They’re pretty good.”
Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads simply believes with a quarterback like Collin Klein the Widcats will finished higher than sixth.
Rhoads said, “When you got a quarterback like Colin (Klein) leading that charge, his physical toughness and mental toughness, he has an ability to do whatever it takes.”
Oklahoma State running back, Joseph Randle, a Wichita native, feels that going to Manhattan is a beast of its own.
“The fans give me a tough time when I go up there, they say ‘you should have stayed in Kansas Randle’ a fan literally came close to me and said that,” Randle said.
Kansas State’s linebacker Tre Walker will take the and use it as fuel to his fire.
Walker said, “We definatley take it as motivation, and that’s been our key to success. We don’t care about somebody telling us we can’t be something, because we take that and we make people put their foot in their mouth.”
Legendary Wildcat Coach Bill Snyder said, “I think you look back at last season and we moved up maybe six slots. I just hope that we can do something similar to that.”
If I had to take a bet now, I’d say the Wildcats finish well above the sixth slot.
Walker Sizes Up Geno Smith
Wildcat linebacker Tre Walker talks about WVU quarterback, Geno Smith, here.
Bill Snyder Press Conference
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When former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen left for West Virginia, little did people think West Virginia would become Oklahoma State – East. Right now West Virginia has three assistants that have spent time in Stillwater. Quarterback Coach Jake Spavital was there in 2010 as the offensive graduate assistant, Running backs Coach Robert Gillespie was there in 2009 and 2010, and finally new defensive coordinator, Joe DeForest served as Oklahoma State’s Associate Head Coach and Special Teams coordinator since 2001.
Gundy praised Holgorsen for the staff he’s put together. Gundy said, “I know Coach DeForest is a good coach, I know Gillespie is a good coach. He’s (Holgorsen’s) a smart guy, so I’m sure he put together a good staff.”
Gundy also gave some knowledge as to what WVU can expect out of Joe DeForest.
“He’s had great success at our place on special teams, he’s got a lot of knowledge there, he’s been doing that for a long time, 15-20 years, he should be an asset to any organization,” Gundy added.
Aside from Gundy, the Cowboys’ running back, Joseph Randle was heavily recruited by former OSU running back coach and now WVU running back coach, Robert Gillespie.
“I trusted him (Gillespie), I trusted the vision Coach Gundy and him had for me in this program. Everything that he said could happen for me, has happened,” Randle said about Gillespie.
Gillespie left Oklahoma State after Randle’s freshman season.
“He’s a good coach and a great guy,” Randle said.
Gundy Understands Randle’s Importance
It isn’t hard to see the most vital piece of the Oklahoma State offense this season. After losing quarterback Brandon Weeden to the Browns and Justin Blackmon to the Jaguars, the Cowboys have production to replace. The one guy that Head Coach Mike Gundy can rely on is running back Joseph Randle.
“Joseph has done very well for us. And he’s been durable. Not only a good runner inside but outside. He’s been a good receiver. He pass blocks well,” Gundy said.
In 2011, Randle rushed for 1248 yards and 24 touchdowns. If Oklahoma State wants to continue the offensive success they’ve had in the past, this seasons’ version of the Cowboys’ offense has to lean on Randle.
“Joseph has kind of established himself as a dominant back in this league,” Gundy added.
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Head Coach Dana Holgorsen
WR Tavon Austin
DE Will Clarke with our Greg Madia
C Joe Madsen
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Quotes from Dana Holgorsen’s Press Conference:
On Excitement to Join Big 12:
It’s good to be here in Dallas. It’s good to be a part of the Big 12 from a coaching standpoint, player standpoint, administrative standpoint, and a fan-base standpoint. I can assure you everybody in West Virginia is excited about the opportunity that’s in front of us. It’s going to be a challenge. Nine of my last 12 years has been in the Big 12 and had a lot of big games, played in a lot of different venues, and it’s — we understand it’s going to be challenging.
On Comparing Morgantown to Rest of Big 12:
But the one thing that I’ve been going around the state for the last couple of months telling the people of West Virginia is what we’re getting into is the same thing we got at home. And that didn’t necessarily exist in the conference that we were in last year. It means a lot. The culture is there. The support’s there. The fan base is there. We’re going to fill up our stadium. Our team is used to winning, and that exists at the other nine universities in the Big 12 as well. So the best way I can describe it to the people of West Virginia and the best way I can describe it to the Big 12, everybody else, is is what exists in the Big 12 exists in Morgantown, West Virginia, as well.
(see entire press conference here)On Learning from Coaches He’s Worked Under:
The best way I can describe it is is just paid attention to who I worked for. And I was with Mike Leach for eight years and saw how he ran his program, was obviously pretty successful and won some football games, and moved on and worked for Kevin Sumlin down at the University of Houston. And Kevin’s approach was different. More of a CEO-type approach and managed not only what we were doing offensively but special teams, defense, recruiting, media, alumni base, and did a great job of handling the whole scope of things. And then working one year with Coach Gundy there at Oklahoma State. I just paid attention to how all three of them did it and took bits and pieces from each one and developed my own way of doing things.
On Traveling Further Geographically:
The travel comes up. Last year it didn’t matter if it was, if we were getting on a plane and flying one hour and getting on a plane and flying two hours to Tampa, Florida. So basically the road games are going to be — it’s going to be an airplane ride. So you’re going to jump on a plane and fly a couple of hours no matter where you go. From there it’s just all about routine. So from a travel standpoint, for us, anyway, I don’t view it as being a big deal.
On Big 12 Quarterbacks:
Sounds like it’s been the same way in the Big 12 for about a decade now. Been a whole bunch of good quarterbacks come through the league. Obviously last year with a guy that I followed pretty closely, Brandon Weeden, was in the league and Robert Griffin winning the Heisman Trophy. The league’s been like that for as long as I can remember it. I’ve been fortunate to being at a lot of those games and coach a lot of those quarterbacks that existed.
On Tweaking His Offense Year after Year:
We’ll probably put something new out there. I’m not going to tell you what it is. But it’s evolved. I mean, obviously eight years in Lubbock working for Coach Leach, the offense was kind of set. And made the decision four years ago to break away from them, to go down to the University of Houston. And every time you change a job you gotta look at what your personnel is and you gotta try to tweak some things to fit what your personnel is. We tweaked it a little bit at Houston. Went to Oklahoma State. Tweaked it a little bit at Oklahoma State. And last year when we went to West Virginia, we tweaked it a little bit. Specifics would take a couple of days to get into. But I’d like to say we put our own spin on it and we’re doing our best to be able to fit with what the players are.
On Managing Expectations:
Well, you don’t get ahead of yourself, I guess. It seems like I haven’t seen these guys in two, three months. We can’t work with them right now. So when we get back next week — I mean, we’ll give them a week off, come back next week. That’s what camp’s all about. If you think a guy that’s reading his press clippings, then it’s your job as a coach to make sure you bring them down. I think we’ve got some guys — you mentioned Geno and then Tavon Austin is the other guy on that list, which Tavon is potentially one of the more dynamic guys I’ve been around. So he’s got a chance to be good. What’s awesome about the Big 12 as opposed to where we were last year is just the national exposure, and it’s going to be West Coast to East Coast. And they’re going to be putting some venues to be able to shine if they can handle that. And that’s our job as coaches, to put them in those positions and make sure that they’re prepared and then get them on that stage and see what they can do from there. So managing expectations is part of our job. It’s obviously better to have high expectations than it is low expectations.
On State of WVU Recruiting:
The subject of recruiting came up a bunch, because of the move. When I first got the job 18 months ago, we had already started recruiting a little bit, recruiting Texas a little bit. Got a great boss in Oliver Luck. Understands college football, understands geography. He had already expressed some interest in wanting to recruit some in Texas, because everybody else recruits in Texas. And Texas is obviously a huge college football hotbed. Yes, we will recruit Houston, we will Dallas. I think we’ve got to be careful a little bit about how much manpower we put here. Because it’s so competitive. Like I said, everybody’s recruiting this. I don’t want to take away from what’s made West Virginia West Virginia. Our surrounding states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia all have pretty good football. So we’ll continue to get the majority of our kids from that area. That’s a very recruited area and there’s a lot of Division I athletes that come out of that area. Florida’s been fantastic for us. I think we signed 13 kids out of Florida last year. Our deal in Texas, which if in a perfect world would be the way everybody did it, but just recruit kids that become really good senior football players.
On Taking Possible Penn State Transfers:
Well, we don’t take a whole lot of transfers. I think the biggest thing, whether it’s — you take transfers if you need immediate help. That’s what transfers are all about. I think it can be beneficial if you identify what your needs are.
Our Greg Madia wraps up day one of Big 12 Media Day in Dallas.
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Participants – Coach Bob Stoops, QB Landry Jones, C Ben Habern, CB Demontre Hurst
Landry Jones Has Plenty of Talent around Him
Landry Jones is the most veteran quarterback in Oklahoma school history. It is been a long journey since he took over for Sam Bradford 2009. Jones has 37 career starts over that time, and he’s seen plenty of teammates at the school, but this team maybe the most talented.
The wide receiver position is loaded with Kenny Stills and true freshman Trey Metoyer. Jones knows he has skill players to throw to.
Jones said, “We’ve got a lot of good guys, we got really good players coming in at the skill positions. Trey (Metoyer) is a bigger receiver, bigger than we’ve typically had, strong to the catch, that’s what’s intrigued me.” (See full Interview of Jones Below)
Jones’ offensive line is also the most veteran in the entire conference. The anchor and center Ben Habern is on the Rimington watch list and is one of the top centers in the nation. Guard Gabe Ikard was a third-team All-American last season. The other two guys are strong linemen, Tyler Evans had 77 knockdowns last season, while Lane Johnson had a total of ten knockdowns in one game.
“That’s huge to have guys that have been playing for three or four years now. They start and play at a high level, so it’s just that confidence factor knowing you’ll be protected and knowing that those guys will pick up the blitz whenever the other team does blitz.”
Interview with Center Ben Habern
Quotes from Bob Stoops’ Press Conference
(see Stoops Presser below)
On Three Student-Athlete Media Day Reps:
We’ve got three excellent players here with me: Landry Jones, senior quarterback; Ben Habern, senior center; and Demontre Hurst, a senior cornerback. All excellent leaders and guys we’re hoping are going to have great years.
On State of Program in the Big 12:
Hopefully we can be back to have a chance to once again compete for the Big 12 Championship. I think it’s fair to say our league, when you add West Virginia and TCU, two teams coming off bowl wins, two ranked football teams, you put them with the rest of what we’ve been doing here in the Big 12, that our league is every bit as strong as it’s ever been, if not stronger.
My expertise is just in coaching football. So administrators, presidents and them, you trust they understand what needs to happen. And that’s not really up to me to judge.
On Having His Brother Mike back on Staff:
I’m excited to have Mike back for a number of reasons, not only personally, but professionally. When we’ve worked together, it’s been pretty positive, when you look at our years either competing at Iowa together as players but also the years at Kansas State coaching defense together, his first, whatever, five, six years with us at Oklahoma up to 2003. We did pretty well overall.
On Big 12 Newcomer, West Virginia:
The team finished the year in a great way with a huge win. Geno Smith, an excellent quarterback, not only throws, can run it. The high-powered offense. An excellent football team. So it’s kind of how — one of my opening remarks, I believe with these guys coming in, they’re both teams that are used to winning championships. So it’s going to be tough. It’s made the league really difficult. But at the same time it’s exciting. And I know geographically it’s a little bit different. But I think that’s okay, too. Why not expand your boundaries a little bit? In today’s world the way you cover media, you could cover anybody. The same thing traveling anymore, it’s pretty reasonable no matter where you go. So I think it’s a positive.
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