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June 23, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: It’s up to WVU coaches to get swagger back

MORGANTOWN — If you can remember back to that night in Miami, Florida, when West Virginia took Clemson apart, 70-33, in the Orange Bowl, and to the 5-0 start on the next season, you remember the swagger the Mountaineers possessed at the time.

Why not?

They had Geno Smith flinging the football all over the lot, and Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey hauling in those passes for long gains, each punching his ticket to the NFL.

Then the losing began, and as each loss mounted over the past season and a half, WVU winning just four times last year, the swagger was worn away.

So on a recent appearance on Bruce Feldman’s radio show, coach Dana Holgorsen was asked how to get the swagger back, and his answer was interesting, for he did not lay it on the players to develop such an attitude alone, but on the coaches to develop it.

“It depends on these guys developing into real players,” Holgorsen said. “It’s coaching, too. We have to feel good about who we have. We have to have confidence in our guys. We have to believe in them and call plays that we feel will work and get our guys to believe in it ... and I think we’re on our way with that.”

By that, Holgorsen was saying that he believes this past offseason has been a fruitful one in having his team begin to feel like winners again, which is developing the same kind of confidence they had back when they were looking almost unbeatable.

“We have a lot of starters coming back,” Holgorsen noted. “We lost just two guys to the NFL ... running back Charles Sims and defensive end Will Clarke. We should be more familiar with what we are doing on both sides of the ball.”

In football, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt.

It breeds the confidence you are looking for, but again, Holgorsen stresses, it has to begin with the coaching staff letting it be known that they believe.

“Our coaching staff needs to be more excited about it,” he said. “We have to have the confidence we had with Geno and Tavon on the team. They were tremendous players, and we need to get some guys to go out there and make some plays like they did.

“That will translate into other guys having confidence like they did.”

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