West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen embraces expectations of pivotal season | NCAA Soccer


Whereas many school soccer coaches are likely to keep away from speaking about preseason expectations for his or her groups, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen has a distinct strategy.

Holgorsen, getting into his eighth yr in Morgantown, is not afraid to embrace these expectations forward of an intriguing yr within the Large 12 Convention.

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“I imply, you need folks to be speaking about you,” Holgorsen advised Sporting Information on Wednesday. “Which means you’ve bought one thing to speak about. There’s been a few years right here since we’ve been within the Large 12, which is happening our seventh yr, there wasn’t a complete lot to speak about as a result of we weren’t prepared for that caliber of soccer. And so we welcome that.”

If any group is provided to problem Oklahoma’s three-year reign atop the Large 12, it’s the Mountaineers. They’ve the league’s most skilled and completed quarterback in Will Grier, a pair of harmful receivers in David Sills and Gary Jennings and a few promising newcomers. In addition they have a totally loaded offensive line, and, lastly, some defensive assist that Large 12 offenses should account for.

After all, Holgorsen is aware of promise and expertise can solely obtain a lot.

He can look again to the 2016 season, when his Mountaineers began the season 6-Zero earlier than dropping to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to overlook a possible Large 12 title. He can look to final yr, when Grier suffered a damaged finger at Texas, inflicting WVU’s offense to crater in three straight losses to finish the season. 

But when WVU can navigate a treacherous nonconference schedule that features Tennessee in Charlotte and at N.C. State two weeks later, Holgorsen’s eighth season with the Mountaineers could possibly be a memorable one.

“The expectations are to win round right here,” Holgorsen stated. “We’re the 12th-winningest program of all time, so our fan base and our administration expects us to compete.

“The opposite factor is, in case you look again at our final three years, going into the Large 12 six years in the past, I simply didn’t really feel like we had been prepared. We had some top-end expertise, however we weren’t able to compete. The final three years, we’ve been proper within the thick of the Large 12 in Recreation 11, Recreation 12, and simply misplaced a pair video games late to the place we weren’t capable of win the Large 12.

“I simply suppose that is the most effective group we’ve had, and I count on our guys to have the ability to perceive the expectations and to have the ability to do what it takes to as soon as once more place ourselves to probably win the Large 12, however just a little bit higher.”

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All of it begins with Grier, the 2013 Parade Journal Participant of the 12 months in highschool who lit up scoreboards and opposing secondaries final season to the tune of three,490 passing yards and 34 touchdowns. However what makes Grier so formidable on the sector, Holgorsen stated, is how he has overcome obstacles off it: He was suspended by the NCAA for a optimistic PED take a look at at Florida, sat out the 2016 season as a switch after which needed to miss the ultimate three video games of 2017 with that damaged finger.

“There isn’t a doubt about that,” Holgorsen stated. “I imply, he’s been groomed to be a beginning quarterback his entire life. He’s a coach’s child that has performed plenty of soccer. There’s all the time bumps within the highway with regards to life, actually, after which there’s all the time bumps within the highway with the sport of soccer. There’s bumps within the highway all through the course of a season, a sport or perhaps a drive, and he’s a mature man that’s seen all of it and understands methods to responds to all these conditions.

“You recognize, his household life is reassuring to me as a result of it grounds children. Older guys have accountability at residence. That, to me, reduces distractions. It doesn’t promote distractions. There’s plenty of issues that occur to varsity children in school life that I deem as large distractions, you understand, and with him, I don’t see a complete lot of distractions. I see a motivated younger man that’s able to go on the market and play the sport he likes to play.”

Grier already has been forged as an All-American candidate, an early Heisman candidate and even a possible prime NFL Draft decide. Holgorsen hasn’t predicted something that excessive, however he does not thoughts calling his quarterback the most effective within the nation.

“Yeah, I haven’t actually stated that fairly often in my profession, however I do suppose he’s that man,” Holgorsen stated. “I’ve been round plenty of good ones which have carried out at a really excessive degree, and I see that kind of participant in entrance of me. I see that kind of participant in Will. However then I see higher folks round him. I don’t see any weak spots on our offense, and we’re going to have the ability to do much more issues that we weren’t capable of do final yr.”

One issue that ought to bolster Grier’s senior yr and the WVU offense this season comes from the teaching workers. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital now not is offensive coordinator in identify solely, final yr taking up Holgorsen’s function as playcaller, which ought to assist the offense in 2018.

The Mountaineers will miss graduated working again Justin Crawford, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, however Holgorsen thinks redshirt-freshman Alex Sinkfield will substitute him properly. Additionally, there are 4 starters again on the offensive line, together with senior All-American candidate Yodny Cajuste and junior All-Large 12 candidate Colton McKivitz.

The Mountaineers’ strongest place on offense could possibly be the receiving corps, led by Jennings, who caught 97 passes for 1,096 yards final season, and Sills, an erstwhile quarterback prodigy who caught 60 passes for 980 yards and a nation-leading 18 touchdowns. Alabama switch receiver T.J. Simmons ought to fill properly the function of graduated Ka’Raun White (61 catches, 1,004 yards, 12 touchdowns).

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Holgorsen says WVU’s recruiting “has gotten higher” and he has “some high-caliber recruits ready within the wings.” The composite rankings of 247Sports activities agrees: West Virginia’s 2018 class ranked 35th, tying for this system’s second-highest in Holgorsen period. The underside line, he stated, is that “the depth is best, the recruiting is best, and I believe general we’re going to be higher.”

After all, Holgorsen’s protection will all the time have skeptics. After three years of marked enchancment beneath defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, final yr’s unit “took a step again,” rating useless final within the Large 12 in dashing yards allowed (204.2 yards per sport), seventh in scoring protection (31.5 factors per sport) and eighth in complete protection (445.5 yards per sport).

Holgorsen flatly stated this yr’s protection will likely be higher.

“Yeah, as a result of we’ve bought some good older children which can be already established,” he stated. “My fundamental two guys on that facet are (junior linebacker) David Lengthy, which, you’ll be able to’t block him, and Dravon Henry, who’s a fifth-year senior that has performed extra snaps than anyone, most likely when it’s all stated and finished, anyone who’s ever performed right here. You’ve bought two actually, actually, actually robust leaders, and then you definately’ve bought higher guys round them.”

Two of these “higher guys” are graduate transfers on the line of defense. Kenny Bigelow went from Delaware to USC as a prime highschool recruit, however suffered two main knee accidents. He all however gave up soccer final fall, then efficiently filed a hardship attraction for a sixth season of eligibility. Jabril Robinson went from a North Carolina prep star to an everyday contributor at Clemson.

They may assist a protection that appears to grow to be a energy as an alternative of a hindrance in 2018.

“We took a step again final yr,” Holgorsen stated. “The most important motive why is we did have some turnover, however we changed these guys with model new guys. You’ll be able to’t achieve success on this league or in Energy 5 soccer in case you’ve bought model new younger children on the D-line, and that’s what we had. So we’ve bought some veterans there, then we added some fifth-year guys as nicely who’re bodily going to be gentle years forward of these youthful children that we needed to play with final yr.”

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Holgorsen stated opening with the Vols in Charlotte and visiting the Wolfpack two weeks later gained’t make him change preseason expectations. He and his program are embracing the problem of enjoying one in all school soccer’s most demanding nonconference schedules.

“We don’t draw back from that,” Holgorsen stated. “We play extra Energy 5 colleges than anyone in school soccer. … So it’s going to be difficult, however then, each week within the Large 12 goes to be difficult as nicely.”

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