PARKERSBURG - While no college football coach is ever completely happy with how his team came out of spring drills, second-year West Virginia University head coach Dana Holgorsen had more things to be pleased with than unhappy about.
"First, and foremost, we were able to install a new defense," explained Holgorsen, who was at J.P. Henry's Restaurant as part of the Mountaineer Athletic Club's Coaches Caravan. "Defensively, we are switching to a 3-4 which has the capabilities of being a 4-3.
"We've hired some great defensive coaches. In particular, Joe DeForest is our defensive coordinator and Keith Patterson is our co-defensive coordinator to help ease the transition a little bit.
Photo by Jim Butta
West Virginia University head football coach Dana Holgorsen, left, and former University of Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer share a laugh as Holgorsen prepares to address a packed house at J.P. Henry’s Restaurant during Thursday’s Mountaineer Athletic Club’s Coaches Caravan.
"The one thing that I noticed more than anything else about those guys this spring is that they played with more energy. Playing with a whole lot of energy and creating turnovers are what win you a whole lot of football games."
Something Mountaineer fans hope will become a regular occurrence as WVU begins play in the Big 12 next fall.
"Well, the first thing we have to do is beat Marshall," continued Holgorsen. "That's the first game. Then, we have James Madison after that and then Maryland is after that. Then, we will see where we are at after that.
"The Big 12 is going to be a challenge. There is no doubt about it. There is good teams across the board. The Big East had good teams across the board, but the difference is that six of the teams in the Big 12 will be ranked in the preseason. Much like last year, we have to compete week in and week out."
Making that task a little bit easier will be the return of senior left guard Josh Jenkins.
"Josh (Jenkins) played well after sitting out for a year. It was hard for him. Especially watching us win the Big East championship and going to the Orange Bowl. But, we have nine starters back on offense and he is considered one of those nine starters coming back."
Jenkins, who has started in 24 of the 29 games in which he has played since coming out of Parkersburg High School as the state's only two-time winner of the Hunt Award, will team up with seniors Joe Madsen at center and Jeff Braun as right guard to give WVU one of the strongest interior offensive lines in the country.
"We are expecting a lot from those three. They have a lot of game experience between them and they are going to have to be the leaders, up front, for our offense. We are not as experienced at tackle so those three are going to have to provide a lot of leadership if we are going to compete with the defenses in the Big 12."
Also drawing a lot of praise for his efforts during the spring was former-Parkersburg South standout Michael Molinari. The redshirt sophomore came out of the spring as the team's No. 1 holder, a job he took over following spring drills the year before, and as the primary backup to senior punter Corey Smith.
"He (Molinari) is competing," said the coach. "He was the guy, when Corey Smith was struggling, who went in there and probably won us the Rutgers game based on the fact that the weather was bad and he got off a bunch of good punts."
A trio of names that Mountaineer fans could be hearing a lot more about over the next months include wide receiver Jordan Thompson and defensive backs Karl Joseph and Sean Walters.
"When you get guys to come in early-we can still redshirt them-they have five years of eligibility. But, those guys really turned some heads this spring."
A feat West Virginia fans are hoping the Mountaineers will do nationally when they begin play in the Big 12.