Quotes from Coach: Much to improve on ahead of TCU

Dana Holgorsen has plenty he intends to work on Tuesday as the Mountaineers get back on the practice field with the rest of the week open to focus on themselves ahead of a trip to No. 9 TCU.

The areas in need of improvement extend well beyond just the health of a defense that was experimenting with lineups its last time on the field, but the head coach is confident that his team will be as healthy as it has been all season long when it travels to Fort Worth. That is with the exception of redshirt freshman Brendan Ferns, whose season-ending shoulder surgery will certainly make an impact on special teams and defensive depth.

“I really liked what I saw out of him for four games,” Holgorsen said of Ferns, calling him the team’s most solid special teams player. “He seems to be in good spirits. Want him to hang in there and get it fixed and hopefully it doesn’t happen to him again. He did make a sly comment: He was curious if anybody had played football while possessing their doctorate degree. He’s never had a B. If anybody can do it, it’d be him.”

Holgorsen said the rehab should take six months and get Ferns back in the mix in time for spring football and that at this time, he believes the St. Clairsville native will be granted a medical redshirt, allowing him to receive a sixth year of eligibility. And perhaps that doctorate he joked about.

As for the rest of the defense, anyone with any injury is considered day-to-day, and Holgorsen believes they will be back in action to travel and participate come Oct. 7. The task he and his staff will have in the coming days will be to mix and match to find out the best 11 and the primary back-ups in order to create the chemistry that some say was missing as players dropped on Saturday.
“We’ve got some bodies in there. That’s why we practice. We’re going to kind of shuffle some things around on defense,” Holgorsen said. “Getting David [Long] back, getting Toyous [Avery] back, getting Kyzir [White] back, we’ll be able to shuffle some things around to see what the best lineup is. Gotta practice in order to figure that out.”

One defender whose play is demanding more snaps is true freshman nose guard Lamonte McDougle. The Pompano Beach, Fla. native forced a fumble late in the action against Kansas that led to a WVU touchdown and helped preserve the 56-34 victory. His coaches are noticing something special in the 5-foot-10, 295-pound frame he brings to the middle of their defensive front.

“We were happy with Lamonte,” Holgorsen said. “He looked different than the rest of them out there, which is why he was the player of the game. I’m glad we had one of them that filled gaps and got off blocks and made some plays.”

Holgorsen called McDougle disruptive and active and gave him the lone positive remark when it came to the play along the defensive line. Just as defensive coordinator Tony Gibson lamented the team’s ability to fill gaps and make plays at the line of scrimmage, the head coach was similarly frustrated after a game in which West Virginia yielded 367 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

“When you get off blocks and make tackles, that’s a lot better than getting drove back, not making tackles,” Holgorsen said. “If you don’t get off the block and make a tackle as a d-lineman, you guys know in this defense, you’d better occupy a few people in there. Free up linebackers to make plays. I think we know how to coach this defense. We’ve been really good against the run, so we’re going to probably keep coaching it the way we’ve been doing it and our job as coaches is to practice and get these guys better and play people that we feel are the best guys for the roles that we’re asking them to do.”

As unhappy as the run defense made Holgorsen, his own team’s ground game was a source of positive remarks Tuesday, especially regarding his senior, Justin Crawford. At this point in the season, he has more rushing yards and touchdowns than any other player in the Big 12 Conference and is the only player in the league to accumulate 100 or more yards in each game.

Add Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway to the backfield rotation and the offense feels good about getting its ground game more involved as needed going forward.

“From a coaching perspective, we haven’t had to give it to him 25 times because 4 [McKoy] can go in there and play and 32 [Pettaway] can go in there and play,” Holgorsen said with regards to Crawford’s 15 carries per game average. “Keeping those guys healthy is important, too. We’ve gotten to our third and fourth back a lot here in the last few years. It’s going to be hard moving forward. We’ve got to hope for the best.”

See all of what Holgorsen had to say in his weekly press briefing with the full video at the top of the page, courtesy of WVUSports.com.  

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