Quotes from Coach: Special Teams Challenges, Crawford and Grier - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Quotes from Coach: Special Teams Challenges, Crawford and Grier Expectations

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Coach Holgorsen looks on during drills at fall camp. (PHOTO: Anjelica Trinone) Coach Holgorsen looks on during drills at fall camp. (PHOTO: Anjelica Trinone)

MORGANTOWN – It is finally game week in Morgantown and the Mountaineers are hard at work preparing for their first challenge of the season. No. 22 West Virginia and No. 21 Virginia Tech are set for a prime time show down this Sunday at FedEx Field in Maryland.

On Tuesday, WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen met with the media and discussed Virginia Tech challenges and WVU progress. He opened the press conference by expressing his excitement around opening the season at a neutral site against an old rivalry.

“Just with the neutral site game, the Sunday night game, the national TV, only game on, no NFL; the ticket sales on it are really good for both fan bases, not only for our fan base but for Virginia Tech’s as well, it’s going to be a great atmosphere,” Holgorsen said.

He added the one aspect he wasn’t thrilled about was having a short week next week to prepare for East Carolina.

None the less, you couldn’t ask for a much better season opener. West Virginia is coming off a 10-3 season, Virginia Tech a 10-4 season with a Belk Bowl victory.

Holgorsen said he has a lot of respect for the Tech coaching staff, lead by head coach and ACC Coach of the Year Justin Fuente.

“I watched him play growing up as a great quarterback at Tulsa Union and we’ve talked about that. But in addition to that, his two stops at TCU and Memphis, to me, were incredibly impressive,” Holgorsen said of Fuente.“He’s a great offensive mind that does a lot of good things on offense.”

On defense, the Hokies are led by Bud Foster, one of college football’s most decorated defensive coordinators.

“You can’t think of Virginia Tech without thinking of Bud Foster as well. It’s his 30th year,” Holgorsen said. “Their defense is good; they have everybody coming back. I know they’ve been rumored that this may be his best unit from what I understand. If you watch them, they have all their guys coming back and they were an incredibly good defense last year. So, it’ll be a challenge.”

Foster’s defense posted 32 sacks and 16 interceptions last year. It does lose defensive ends Ken Ekanem (7.5 sacks) and Woody Baron (5.5 sacks). Redshirt senior linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka lead the team with 114 total tackles, 52 solo, and tallied three interceptions. Junior linebacker Tremaine Edmunds finished behind Motuapuaka with 106 tackles, 56 solo, and lead the team with four interceptions.

Virginia Tech’s special teams also provide a challenge. Senior cornerback Greg Stoman is the leading kick and punt returner. He averaged 20.9 yards per kick return and 8.8 yards per punt return. Junior wide receiver Henri Murphy was also a key contributor on punt return. Last season, opponents average 4.4 yards per punt return and 17.9 per kick return against the Hokies.

Stroman is the top guy on punt return and at kick returner, Ohio State transfer James Clark, is the guy to watch out for.

“Their returners are really good; all their coverage units are fast and they get down the field and are sure tacklers. I don’t think anybody has had a touchdown, let alone a big return, on those guys on their punt coverage and kickoff coverage in a couple years, especially last year. They’re very sound, very good at what they do,” Holgorsen said.

*One similarity between the two teams is a new quarterback. Redshirt freshman Josh Jackson will make his collegiate debut this weekend. Redshirt junior Will Grier does have playing experience under his belt, but this will be his first showing as a Mountaineer in a true live setting. A lot of expectations have placed on Grier since he arrived in Morgantown ahead of the 2016 season. He led a success Gator offense, completing 106-of-161 passes for 1,204 yards, 10 touchdowns through six games. Coach Holgorsen said he is very happy with Grier’s progress, and is “anxious: to finally see him in a live setting.


“There’s a lot of talk about him and a lot of talk about him being able to finally play football again. It’s been a year-and-a-half, almost two years, I guess, to where he hasn’t played. He likes to play the game, he likes to practice and prepare, likes to get out there and compete,” Holgorsen said of Grier. “He’s our quarterback, so our job is protect him with how we call things. His job is to be able to play within himself and run the offense the way we ask him to do.”

*As many as six different ball carriers could see action against Tech. The pack is lead by starter Justin Crawford, and 2016 was more than successful for the senior. He amassed 1,184 yards and averaged 91.1 yards per game. Crawford finished with five 100+ yard rushing performances, two for 200 or more yards. He racked up a career-best 331 yards, third-most in a game in school history, against Oklahoma. There is no double in Holgorsen’s mind that Crawford can be even more productive this season, however, he needs to work on finding the end zone, which he only did four times through 13 games.

 “Trust me, that has been discussed. What good is getting 200-300 yards if you can’t get into the end zone? So, I’d like for him to bust a few of those and finish them off with some points. He didn’t do it nearly as much as he needs to but I think there’s a conditioning aspect of that and a strength aspect of that. I’m hopeful the offseason he went through is going to be able to help him finish some of those runs. It’s not his durability, but it’s being able to finish the deal.”

In just four days we will see who takes home the Black Diamond Trophy when West Virginia and Virginia clash at 7:30 p.m.

“If you win 10 games and almost win the ACC Championship, then you’re pretty good,” Holgorsen said of his team’s opponent. “I’m expecting them to be even better.”

Want to hear more from Coach Holgorsen? Click here for the full press conference.

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