The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

April 15, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

MORGANTOWN — From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

But there was one thing he could not keep under wraps and out of view of Alabama scouts.

West Virginia’s defense is improved.

Not that there’s anything startling there. If they could find 11 guys who could walk and chew gum at the same time, they would have to be improved.

But we’re talking greatly improved.

It begins with the defensive line, which is being rebuilt under the watchful eye of Tom Bradley and his 33 years of experience coaching under Joe Paterno at Penn State.

“I’ve been happy with the progress of the defensive line. Those guys are learning to be unselfish and hold their lines,” said Holgorsen without prompting in post-game media briefing.

But that is only the beginning, for there is much, much more.

“We have so many guys with experience. We have guys on that second level who have played a bunch, but the biggest difference I see — with KJ Dillon and Karl Joseph — those guys are extremely disruptive off the edge. Daryl Worley has been phenomenal this spring,” Holgorsen said.

You normally don’t hear football coaches using the term “phenomenal,” least of all on a sophomore who has not been able yet to prove himself at cornerback.

A year ago, due to a lack of competitive players, Worley was used almost everywhere but a nose guard ... and wherever they used him, he played well but never had the benefit settling in as he did this spring.

That changed this year with depth at other positions and a new defensive coordinator in Tony Gibson, who like Holgorsen sounds as if he’s already pushing Worley for All-American recognition.

“Worley is as good as anybody I’ve ever had at his age,” Gibson said. “Our goal is to keep him in one spot and let him grow into that position. We didn’t have the luxury of doing that last year.”

Worley was so good that Holgorsen felt he actually took a bite out of the confidence his best receiver, Mario Alford, possesses ... and if confidence were measured in dollars, Alford would have been a billionaire heading into the spring.

Now, you ask him about Worley and he comes as close as he can as heaping the same kind of praise on him that Holgorsen and Gibson did.

“He’s a pretty big good,” the fleet receiver said. “He’s pretty long. He has great coverage skills. We are both going to make each other by feeding off each other.”

Asked what he sees in the future for Worley, Alford answered: “Bright. There’s a very good future for him.”

Worley’s rapid ascension has not surprised Gibson.

“I’m not surprised. Last year when I got here, he was one of the first kids I went up to recruit and get to know. He has it. He has the focus, comes from a great family, a great high school program. He has everything you want in a kid,” he said.

Put Worley on that second level with KJ Dillon and Karl Joseph, and you actually might have a group that can compete on the Big 12 level and not be expected to give up between 40 and 70 points on any given Saturday.

Gibson has a pretty good idea of what he has as he prepares for summer camp to open on Aug. 1.

“Obviously you are going to put the best 11 out there. We want to find our best 11 and our next 11. We have a pretty good grasp on that,” Gibson said. “Right now there’s some freshmen who are going to come in and be asked to step in and play right away at certain positions and in certain roles, so we have to go back, look at it, evaluate it and see where we’re at.”

Toss in an experienced, athletic and proven linebacker group headed by Nick Kwiatkoski and you have the right personnel.

Gibson is trying to get them into the right formations.

It begins with a 3-3-5, the same defense Jeff Casteel used to run when he was defensive coordinator, the idea being to increase the ability to bring blitzes from almost anywhere with linebackers, safeties and even corners.

A year ago the only rush the defense had was to get in line for dinner, but this year they are hoping to make life a bit uncomfortable for quarterbacks, both by pressuring them and confusing them.

In fact, there was a time when WVU’s defensive unit had 11 men standing in a two-point stance with no one down in the traditional three-point stance.

“It was something we were working on,” Gibson explained. “They were going empty (five wide receivers, no running backs) so we wanted to give them some different things and confuse the quarterbacks a little bit.”

And how does that work?

“The biggest thing is that you put guys on their feet for a couple of reasons. One, guys can see. Most people when they go to empty, if they are not going to run the quarterback draw, they are going to throw the ball quick because they know they can’t protect if we bring pressure,” Gibson explained.

“So, we want our guys up on their feet where they can bring their hands up and knock a ball down. Standing, they can see the ball come out better.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel

Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Saban, family happy at Alabama

    Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.

    July 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Quarterback child prodigy’ comes to WVU amidst very high expectations

    Has West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen finally put the arrow he needs in his quiver with the commitment received Wednesday from high school quarterback David Sills, who is a rather extraordinary story and may also just be a rather extraordinary quarterback?

    July 18, 2014

  • WVU kicker Molinari ‘All-American boy’

    West Virginia kicker Mike Molinari may not be an All-American but he is an All-American boy.
    He was honored for that on Wednesday when the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association announced the West Virginia redshirt senior kicker/punter Michael Molinari is a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

    July 16, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Smallwood puts future in jeopardy

    The last thing West Virginia’s struggling football program needed as twilight was setting on Bastille Day in Morgantown was to have one of its own whisked off to the North Central Regional Jail on a fugitive warrant from another state, especially a player who had figured to play a key role in the resurrection of a program gone bad.

    July 16, 2014

  • WVU player arrested in Delaware case

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood has been arrested by university police and is being held at North Central Regional Jail awaiting extradition on a felony warrant out of Delaware.

    July 15, 2014

  • WVU hoping to add two non-conference contests

    West Virginia is nearing the completion of deals to play football games against long-time rival Virginia Tech, now in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Tennessee of the Southeastern Conference, according to a source close to the negotiations.
    An announcement is expected shortly.

    July 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: MLB All-Star game biggest celebration of top athletes

    You will pardon me if I find something else to do when the Pro Bowl rolls around, or if I try to find a “Three Stooges” marathon when it’s time for the NHL All-Star game. As for the NBA All-Star game, I’d rather watch a replay of a four-year-old Uruguay-Ethiopia World Cup soccer match in which I knew the outcome.

    July 14, 2014

  • Howes learns to ‘never settle’ as WVU administrator

    You probably don’t know much about Terri Howes, even though she is a rather high-ranking executive in the West Virginia University athletic department.
    “I like it that way,” she said, sitting in a large office at the Coliseum, decorated with pictures and memorabilia, a jar of candy sitting by the door for visitors to dip into.

    July 13, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads