MORGANTOWN - Coaches like to talk about how practice and preparation are processes.Well, so too is motivation.Take Dana Holgorsen, for example. Ask West Virginia's second-year coach a question and you're just as likely to get the answer he wants his team to hear as you are to receive the unadulterated truth.The truth itself? Well, a little bit of that might be included in there. But for the most part it's a version of the truth with an agenda attached.
Take, for example, his most recent public opinion of the relative progress being made by West Virginia's offense and defense through 13 of 15 spring practices."The defense played well,'' Holgorsen said, referring to his team's most recent scrimmage, which was held on Sunday. "On offense, we didn't make as many plays and it's been kind of a trend here lately. Write all kinds of bad stuff about the offense if you guys would.''See. There it is. The process. There's no doubt Holgorsen is more than a bit perturbed by the way his offense has performed of late in practice. And there's no doubt good reason for that disappointment.But Holgorsen also knows that it's mid-April and not mid-August. And even if it was mid-August and the season opener against Marshall was a couple of weeks away, the message probably would not change.He knows what he's doing on offense is sound. He knows his players are good. But occasionally they need a kick in the rear end for motivation. And what better way to do that than dress them down to an adoring fan base through his best means of doing so - the media.
That's the same media, of course, to which Holgorsen has spent much of the spring extolling the virtues of the offense - how Tavon Austin and Geno Smith are better than ever, how the running backs are fighting through a lack of depth and performing above expectations, and how the line could be among the best he's ever had.And now?"Offense is starting to get a little complacent,'' he said. "I don't know if they're reading too much about how good they are or what, but they're getting a little complacent and the defense is flying around and making some plays.''See. Again, there's the process. Talk about how well the offense is doing to motivate the defense and then, when the balance (hopefully) shifts, reframe the public comments to motivate someone else.There is, of course, nothing new about this, nor is it at all unique to Holgorsen or football coaches in general. Bob Huggins, for example, spent much of the winter in a not-so-subtle public critique regarding the work ethic of his freshman basketball class. The reaction in some quarters of the fan base was as expected, criticizing Huggins for recruiting those same players he was now disparaging. The method to the madness, though, was obviously motivation by a certain degree of public shame. And to the extent that it could, it probably worked. By season's end more and more of those freshmen were showing up early to get in more shots or otherwise work on their deficiencies.I suppose the point of all of this, at least to the reader - or the listener or the watcher, depending upon the choice of media - is the lesson we all have learned by now but sometimes need refreshing: Take what coaches say with a grain of salt, sometimes because more often than not there's an agenda attached.
West Virginia's offense is in a funk toward the end of spring? Don't get discouraged. The defense is winning far more battles than anyone might have reason to expect? It's not the Steel Curtain.It's all a process taking place in the spring, with nary a game in sight. And tomorrow the process will probably change.Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1