It is not uncommon that you hear a college football coach mention the lack of time he gets with his players in the offseason. After all, in a multi-million dollar business with livelihoods are on the line day in and day out, wouldn't you want the guy in charge to have the ultimate control over the whole organization?
This is an issue, among others, that West Virginia Head Coach Dana Holgorsen stressed when talking with the media at a recent stop in Beckley, W.Va. during the Mountaineer Athletic Club Coaches Caravan tour. From discussion of current players to the current state of the program as a whole, Holgorsen touched on a number of topics crucial to the future of Mountaineer football.
Among the dialogue regarding the current state of the West Virginia program, Holgorsen first expressed his approval at the recent NCAA rule changes that allow increased access to student-athletes for football coaches during the summer months.
"We'll be able to be a part of workouts, we'll be able to meet with them and coach them up," Holgorsen said. "We can't do anything with the ball, we can't have practice, but we'll be able to be around. This means, I think this summer will be more beneficial than it has in the past."
And for the recipients of that benefit, Holgorsen believes, particularly for the younger players on his West Virginia squad, that the increased exposure to the coaching staff will boost overall development entering fall camp.
"(It helps) especially the younger players," he said. "We've sat in many a living room over the last ten years promising the kids that we'll take care of the kids once they get on campus, and we weren't able to be with them. We weren't able to coach them. Now we'll be able to coach them and keep an eye on them."
The issue of coach access, along with other hot-button issues, have dominated the landscape of college football this offseason. And Holgorsen, like his colleagues across the country, has had to adapt in order to survive.
Case in point, the recruitment of transfer athletes from other FBS institutions. While some might look at this topic with scorn, Holgorsen instead tackles it with the reality of times.
"It's college football free agency," the West Virginia head coach states.
And for the Mountaineers this form of amateur free agency, no matter what one's beliefs are toward the process, must be tackled in one way or another.
Regardless, Holgorsen and his staff have hit the ground running during the offseason to gather a number of quality transfer recruits during this "free agency" process.
The most notable addition in fact has come in the form of the most recent signee in defensive lineman Shaquille Riddick. A 6-foot-6 240-pound pass rusher, Riddick will likely provide the Mountaineers with a much-needed presence off the edge. A hole that Holgorsen believes was one of his squad's most pressing needs.
"Being able to add a guy like Shaq Riddick, who is a pass rusher, it will be able to fill a void that's on our team right now," Holgorsen said. "He'll be able to come off the edge and hopefully be able to get to the quarterback a good bit. You never know what you've got in recruiting until you actually have them, but he does have something that we don't have on our team right now, which is a long body that can come off the edge and rush the passer."
Beyond new additions, Holgorsen also touched on the impact current members of the Mountaineer squad could have once the calendar hits August 1. Most notably the work of quarterback Clint Trickett.
After battling injuries and competition last season, Trickett currently looks to be healthy and leading the depth chart in the eyes of the fan base.
But while Holgorsen backs up the health of his quarterback, even noting that he has finally been cleared to throw recently, the head coach remains hesitant to coronate Trickett the starter just yet.
"By no means have I anointed him the starter," Holgorsen stressed.
Still, Trickett remains atop the depth chart post spring, and common knowledge has to believe there is a reason for this distinction. In fact, Holgorsen does believe fans will see another side of Trickett's game this season that they did not witness in 2013, given that he remains healthy throughout the campaign.
"He's got a chance to be a really good player for us," Holgorsen said. "He needs to focus on staying healthy, being able to manage the game, and not put his body in harm's way, if you will."
Ultimately, Trickett remains on the same timetable that the entire squad finds themselves currently following. And until June 1 rolls around, Holgorsen will be checking the clock, waiting to dive head first into the affairs of his squad in an effort to build the best team possible for the upcoming season.
But until then, traveling West Virginia and meeting enthusiastic fans across the Mountain State is the best the Mountaineer head coach can do to rally his troops as the Alabama Crimson Tide await a mere 99 days from now.
"It's always great to get out in different parts of the state and just try to create some excitement for not only Mountaineer football but Mountaineer athletics as well," Holgorsen said. "We've got the best fans in the country. They always show up and are very vocal about their Mountaineers."
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