West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen will be entering his fourth season at the helm for the West Virginia football team, but with a multitude of issues over the last three seasons for his squad, Holgorsen knows his entire team needs to step up to compete with the rest of the Big 12 Conference in the fall.
Although there was inconsistent play on all three sides of the ball for the Mountaineers in the 2013 season, Holgorsen said the defense needs to step up during the 2014 season and said he’s been pleased with the defensive progress so far during spring practice.
“I’ve been happy with the progress of the defensive line. Those guys are learning to be unselfish and hold their lines,” Holgorsen said. “We have so many guys with experience.”
Experience is something Holgorsen hopes will assist this team after the debacle that was the Mountaineers’ second season in the Big 12, finishing 2-7 in conference play last fall.
Last season, Holgorsen said he was impressed with two defensive players especially – junior safety K.J. Dillon, who finished the season with 28 tackles, and junior safety Karl Joseph, who started all 12 games at free safety for West Virginia and led the Big 12 with four fumble recoveries.
“We have guys on that second level who have played a bunch, but the biggest difference I see (is) with K.J. Dillon and Karl Joseph. Those guys are extremely disruptive off the edge,” he said.
On top of Dillon and Joseph impressing Holgorsen and his staff this spring, Holgorsen knows he can rely on one other defensive player – redshirt junior linebacker Isaiah Bruce.
Following WVU’s annual Gold-Blue Spring Game, Bruce said he thought the entire team played well, but he understands a lot of work needs to be done before the season opener against Alabama at the end of August.
“I think we did some good things. I think we can use more improvement on other things,” Bruce said. “Overall, I think we had a pretty good day.”
Bruce finished the 2013 season with 43 tackles and earned a fifth place finish in the Big 12 with three forced fumbles during the 2013 season, but he said he plans to keep improving on all aspects of his game going into next season.
“I definitely improved over the spring. I got stronger, faster and more mentally prepared as far as knowing what to do in certain situations,” he said. “Putting me in the middle, instead of outside, has really helped me learn a lot. It’s all about being stable at one spot.”