For the Times West Virginian
There’s something about putting on the pads, which the West Virginia Mountaineers did in part for the first time on Monday, that brings out the mean streak in a football player.
Even though they didn’t do the full uniform, helmets and shoulder pads were enough to allow contact and considering it had been since the spring since anyone had banged on anyone else and since this is the time when you must make impressions on the coaching staff, it seemed like at times that this was more WWE than collegiate football.
There were at least three scuffles during the half hour the media was allowed in to watch practice and much of that time was rather tame special teams work. Only after they began banging heads did they try to rip some of them off.
“We are not fighting because we hate each other,” Coach Dana Holgorsen noted. “It’s just the aggressive nature of what kids are like.”
Indeed, this football is a game of aggression, even with the subtle approach Holgorsen’s offense often takes, and they were getting after each other … maybe too much.
“It was more than I would like today,” Holgorsen admitted.
Holgorsen admits he’d rather it be that way, especially at this time of year, than too passive.
“There are some people across the country who would trade places with me because they can’t get them to fight. I’ve been in that situation before.”
It is kids being kids, mainly.
“It’s just intensity and it’s competing and getting aggravated. If it starts hurting the drill, like it did later on in practice where it disrupted the drill, then I had to get involved in it and calm everybody down.”
Holgorsen believes he is deep in freshman and considers that a good thing … and not necessarily for the future.
Being in the Big 12, he expects he is going to have to play a large number of freshmen during the year to give his players some rest.
While he won’t say that the game is different – “Football is football,” he said – there is a different approach than in other leagues.
“My experience in the Big 12 is that we will play more snaps and therefore will have to play more people. We’re preparing for that.”
In fact there are teams in the Big 12 who will intentionally try to wear you down.
“They will run receivers deep over and over just to wear out cornerbacks,” he said. “We did that a lot at Texas Tech. You will see more of that. You’ll see fast balls, deep balls. It’s different.”
In part because of the aggressiveness and the fighting, Holgorsen likes the early attitude in camp, something not surprising coming off a 70-33 Orange Bowl victory over Clemson.
“I like their mentality right now,” he said. “We’re trying to develop some leaders like everyone around the country.”
This is especially true on defense, where there are not many returning starters as compared to the nine that come back on an established offense.
“The defense is flying around with a chip on its shoulder,” he said. “They are flying around and playing hard.”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.