Chuck McGill: Peeking at WVU, MU spring football
There’s little reason to believe West Virginia and Marshall will get on the same football field anytime soon, so let’s tackle the state’s only two Division I programs in one column and empty the spring notebook.
First, what’s up with those little red silicone bracelets the Mountaineers’ coaching staff debuted during spring drills? Fourth-year coach Dana Holgorsen wore one on his right arm during the Gold-Blue spring game April 12. The assistants sport them, too. The acronym “WTF” is in white lettering on the bracelet.
It doesn’t mean what one might think.
“It’s win, trust, finish,” said JaJuan Seider, WVU’s running backs coach.
It’s the team mantra, it seems. The other day kicker Josh Lambert posted a photo on the social media website Twitter of the Mountaineers practicing at University of Charleston Stadium with the gold dome of the state capitol in the background. “WVU! T.E.A.M! W.T.F!” he tweeted.
His followers were incredulous, but Lambert assured them it means win, trust, finish.
“We were 4-8 last year,” Seider said. “We didn’t win. What are we trying to do this season? Win. We had a lot of turnover on the staff, a lot of new players come in and a lot of trust goes into that. We trust each other now.
“Now we have to go finish.”
West Virginia lost twice in overtime (Texas and Iowa State), squandered a fourth-quarter lead to Texas Tech and trailed by single digits in the fourth quarter in games it ultimately lost (Oklahoma and Kansas State).
“We gave ourselves an opportunity but we didn’t finish,” Seider said. “You’re talking about everything that’s in the past, but that’s what you do in the offseason to build for the future. We have 70 guys back who are already in the program, so that’s building trust in the future so we can finish.”
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IN THE PAST 17 months or so — since the end of the 2012 regular season — 32 assistant coaches have been on the staffs at WVU and Marshall.
Seider has coached at both places, but we’ll only count him once. The list includes Anthony Midget, who went from Georgia State to Marshall to Penn State in a span of about 10 days last year.
The Mountaineers had five coaches depart for one reason or another after the 2012 season. This offseason, only two coaches — Keith Patterson and Erik Slaughter — left the program.
The Thundering Herd had six coaches — two-thirds of the staff — leave after coach Doc Holliday’s third season, when Marshall went 5-7 and missed a bowl game. After a 10-4 season that included a Conference USA East Division title and bowl win over Maryland, only one coach hit the road. That was running backs coach Thomas Brown, who went to Wisconsin.
After a heap of turnover last offseason, this one has been extraordinarily calm.
WVU brought in Damon Cogdell and Tom Bradley, but the offensive staff is intact from last season. Marshall brought in former Wake Forest star running back Chris Barclay to replace Brown, but the defensive side of the ball has continuity.
“The guys Doc brought in last year, they’re non-ego guys,” said Todd Hartley, who joined the Marshall staff in 2011 and pulls double duty as tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator.
“In this profession, to have a staff full of guys who care about each other and winning games and what we have to do to win games and not putting themselves before that ... that is rare to find in this day and age.”
Lonnie Galloway, who coaches WVU’s receivers and is in his second stint at the school, said the continuity is “huge.”
“I know what Coach (Shannon) Dawson is thinking, what Coach (Ron) Crook is thinking, what Coach Seider is thinking,” Galloway said. “With Coach Holgorsen being an offensive guy, we know what he expects of us, and he’s learned from us and we’ve learned from him.
“In the spring we go over stuff we’ve already coached; we’re used to everybody.”
Hartley said keeping a staff together is an underrated aspect of a team’s success.
“When you think about it, at one point our tight ends were coached by Phil Ratliff, Bill Legg and Todd Hartley,” said Hartley, who moved from safeties to tight ends after Legg’s role changed in the wake of the six departures. “The cornerbacks went from Mike Cassity to Lytrell Pollard to Chuck Heater. Everybody coaches different, everybody teaches different and those kids learn differently.
“It’s tough on the kids, I think. Now we’re not starting over. I think that’s big.”
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AND FINALLY ...
Could a pair of Florida State transfers do battle on Aug. 30?
WVU’s Clint Trickett missed spring drills as he recovers from offseason surgery, but should be in the mix to vie for the Mountaineers’ starting quarterback job in fall camp. He’ll compete with senior Paul Millard, junior college transfer Skyler Howard and incoming freshman William Crest.
West Virginia’s season opener is against Alabama, a team also searching for a new QB after A.J. McCarron exhausted his eligibility.
The options didn’t impress in Saturday’s A-Day Game, the Crimson Tide’s spring game. Blake Sims completed 13 of 30 passes for 178 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Cooper Bateman, who like Sims was a four-star prospect, completed 11 of 24 passes for 156 yards and one touchdown while playing with the second team. Alabama’s No. 3 quarterback, Alec Morris, finished with nine passing yards and an interception, but did a little moonlighting on special teams and boomed 15 punts.
This is why the Alabama faithful is hinging hopes on Jacob Coker, who backed up Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston last season. The year before, Coker and Trickett were in a depth chart battle.
Now they’ll spend the coming months battling to face each other in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.