Coaches meshing early in spring
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2013 00:03
Anyone paying attention to the West Virginia football program knows the focal point of spring football for the Mountaineers is to replace soon-to-be NFL guys Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
While that is important, it would be naive to forget WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen is in the early stages of working with a virtually all-new coaching staff.
"Coaching changes are part of the profession that you have to learn to deal with," Holgorsen said. "Regardless of what the reason is for a coaching change, you always try to turn it into a positive for your program."
In total, West Virginia retains just four assistants from 2012: offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, special teams coordinator Joe DeForest and defensive line coach Erik Slaughter.
On the other hand, WVU is replacing five other assistants from last year by inserting new receivers coach Lonnie Galloway, safeties coach Tony Gibson, cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell, offensive line coach Ron Crook and running backs coach JuJuan Seider.
For Holgorsen, the first two practices of the spring have just been about teaching and coaching with a new staff, besides getting familiar with younger players.
"I will say this: From a coaching standpoint, it feels like it’s the first day on the job," he said. "We have some new coaches in here and have some new philosophies."
Despite the newness of the staff, everything seems to be moving well internally for WVU. The first two days have been upbeat due to eagerness from the new coaches resonating with the players.
"We obviously tried to locate guys that wanted to be here, that were eager and energetic about joining this staff," Holgorsen said. "The morale as a whole is good, because we have a bunch of guys that are excited about the opportunity to be here."
For Galloway, Gibson and Seider, this is their second stint in Morgantown. Familiarity with the program has given all three a headstart on what the school and program are all about.
However, just because they had been around the program before didn’t guarantee any coach a return.
Holgorsen said it was also about having coaches who were talented and excited to start working from day one.
"(Galloway, Gibson and Seider) understand the inner workings of Mountaineer Nation," he said. "I had to feel good about guys that wanted to bring something different to the table and understand how things work around here but also have the knowledge to coach up certain positions."
One new coach without any prior ties to the program was Mitchell. Arguably, he has the toughest task of all in turning around a cornerbacks unit that gave up 38 touchdown passes – among the nation’s worst.
"Take a guy like Brian Mitchell, who didn’t know much about the program. But based on my familiarity with him, I knew he could coach the heck out of these corners. You can see a difference in what our corners are doing right now," Holgorsen said.
Mitchell and Gibson are already bringing the energy, helping Patterson develop and better his defensive scheme. Offensively, Galloway, Seider and Crook are starting to help Holgorsen piece together a brand new offense from a personnel standpoint.
With 13 practices to go this spring and 15 more this summer, WVU’s staff has time to grow – something Holgorsen said he is excited about.
"I can’t say enough about how everyone is meshing and the amount of work, excitement and energy that is permeating through the building," he said.