Mountaineers See Program Growth Under Holgorsen - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Mountaineers See Program Growth Under Holgorsen

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MORGANTOWN -

Fans got their first chance to see some of the changes in the Mountaineer football program Sunday for the team's season opener, but in truth, many changes have gone largely unnoticed in the public eye.

"Everybody says it's like a new era – you can see the new era starting to form," says junior safety Terence Garvin. "It's just us now, it's West Virginia, it's a new identity of West Virginia. I'm sure it changed from the 1950s to the 1960s and so on, so this is just the new era."

From a pregame walk to a piece of coal and a large banner for the team entrance, there have been noticeable changes in Morgantown over the past few days.

The first Mountaineer Mantrip was an enormous success. As excited as the WVU supporters were to cheer on the team, it's clear the players were just as affected by it.

Despite most of the athletes maintaining a poker face as they blared music through oversized headphones, they were visibly energized as they stepped onto the turf and met at midfield.

"I feel like that's probably the best idea that has ever come up here," redshirt sophomore receiver Stedman Bailey says. "That was very exciting for me. The fans got us all pumped up."

The smile never left Holgorsen's face as he passed through the mass of gold and blue and grabbed ahold of a few begging hands along the way. When he took the microphone and said, "I hope that's not all you all got," before telling the crowd exactly what he had planned for Marshall, it was clear that this head coach was nothing like his predecessor.

But this is something that has been evident to the players on his team since the day he took over back in June. He had a plan for his first head-coaching job. It wasn't simply to win games and to build a résumé, but rather to build a program.

Part of that program building is to ensure that the players are on board with what the coaches are planning, and in speaking with a few of the Mountaineers student-athletes, that certainly seems to be the case.
"It feels like we have more fun and we can be more loose, but we still know we have to go out on the field and play," says junior cornerback Pat Miller. "They're (the coaches) giving us things, but we've got to return [the favor] and go out there and play ball like they want us to."

Miller isn't alone in believing that fun is a significant part of the changes the program has undergone over the past few months.

"Holgorsen, he's a pretty fun guy and he likes to make things fun, so that's something that we all can appreciate," says Bailey. "Everybody's buying into it, so I guess everything that he's done around here, or is trying to do, everybody likes."

Fifth-year senior linebacker Najee Goode has been through three different head coaches during his time at WVU. For the most part, he's stuck close to the defensive staff and rarely interacted with the offensive coaches under Rich Rodriguez and Bill Stewart. He says that has all changed now.

"I can remember at times when I used to walk into the stadium and I would walk by Coach Rod or Coach Stew and sometimes I wouldn't even get a word, but Holgorsen is walking around and he's a younger coach, so he can associate more with the players and we have a little more in common," says Goode.

In recent years, small changes were made such as eliminating foul language from music in the locker room and ultimately banning it altogether. Cell phones were not allowed inside the Milan Puskar Center. The phone rule is something many coaches implement in football, but at WVU many of the players felt that it was taken to an excessive level.

Under the new leadership, phones aren't banned in the building – just in meeting rooms and in other situations in which full attention needs to be maintained. These small liberties mean a lot to the people who are experiencing them.

"That's something big with comfort level," says Bailey. "We can just walk through the door and be ourselves. In the past, if we walk in the door we'll probably be quiet, thinking that maybe we just need to be quiet because we're in the stadium now. It's little things like that."

Miller echoes Bailey's sentiments regarding the more comfortable atmosphere in the program.

"You get a better chemistry with your teammates because you want to be at the stadium more," Miller says. "It's not like you come in here like, ‘Man, I'm ready to go.' If you want to be here, you can go downstairs, play video games, play ping-pong… You can just enjoy yourself a little bit more."

Perhaps the biggest key to these changes working well is that everyone buys into them and does not abuse them. Having fun and enjoying their time with the team is important to morale so long as the players and coaches get their jobs done in practice and on game days.

"[Holgorsen] will give us days off to just go ahead and chill out or to watch film, but you can't abuse anything the coaches give us because everything we put in, he recognizes it and wants to give back all within the program and all within the legal limits," says Goode.

With that in mind, it's vital that the other coaches on the staff are on board with what Holgorsen has brought to Morgantown. Bailey believes they are and feels closer to the entire staff than he has to this point in his career at WVU.

"I feel like with every coach on the staff now, I can talk to them whenever I need and not have to hold back," he says. "Whatever I need to talk about, I feel like I could talk to these guys. That helps me out a lot."

Each of these players is excited to think of the future under Holgorsen if the first few months have already proven to be much better in their eyes. Of course, much of the opinion on their program will depend on the success they find during the season.

The comfort and positive atmosphere in the building should not be underestimated when it comes to the impact they will have on the field.

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