The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

August 11, 2013

Coaches looking for instinctive abilities

Football is a complicated game. Players have to know the playbook, recognize pre-snap reads, listen for audibles and pay attention to snap counts.

Some have to know how to read a defense, while others have to look for keys to determine what the opposing offense is going to do next.

But West Virginia University’s coaches would prefer their players didn’t have to think. A player, they believe, only reaches his full potential when things come natural.

“I was talking to one kid (Saturday) morning, and he’s like, ‘I just don’t feel like I’m playing like I know I can play,’” said WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. “I told him it is because things aren’t instinctive to him yet. That’s natural. He’s learning a different system.

“Once it becomes instinctive — where you see the signal, you execute the play and your natural ability takes over — then that’s when you’re going to become the player that you know you are. It’s a process.”

But how does that process work? How do the coaches use the summer practice sessions to make sure the athletes reach that level?

“It’s all about scheme and progressions,” said first-year running backs coach JaJuan Seider. “The good thing that we’re doing here is we don’t overload the kids. We gradually give it to them. Then, we come back in three or four days, and we gradually give them more instruction. Before you take that next step, they get really good at what you have just installed.”

The difficult part for the coaches is staying patient. There are times in the process where a player might forget something he’s already learned, and it’s important for the coaches to remember just how much is on the mind of that 18-year-old freshman.

“It’s frustrating at times, but I think that the one thing we have to keep in mind, too, is there is a certain amount of patience it takes,” said Dawson, who worked with the wide receivers, in addition to his offensive coordinator duties, last year but has shifted to the quarterbacks this season. “We’re trying to put pieces of the puzzle together with a bunch of guys who are inexperienced. The main thing with those guys is they can’t get frustrated.

“Everybody is competitive, and we have a lot of competition out there. There is a level of frustration. It happens when things aren’t clicking exactly the same way you want them to click.”

The offensive players aren’t the only ones with more Xs and Os on their minds than a professional Tic-Tac-Toe player. Going against head coach Dana Holgorsen’s air raid offense is no simple task for the Mountaineer defenders, either.

“Every day there is something new,” said first-year safeties coach Tony Gibson, back for his second stint with WVU after coaching cornerbacks as an assistant under Rich Rodriguez. “What we try to do is just repeat install, so they can get a better understanding of it and adjust.”

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Holgorsen announced earlier this week that sophomore cornerback Nana Kyeremeh will undergo shoulder surgery and be out the entire season. He’ll use a redshirt year and have three more seasons to play beginning in 2014.

Kyeremeh figured to be in the mix for playing time at corner, but first-year cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell said the loss should not be detrimental to his unit.

“You move forward, and you do not dwell,” he said. “The kids have done a great job of playing the next play. Nana would love to have his spirit there and his competitive nature there, but we need to move forward and play the next play, and that is what the kids have done. That is part of football. We all adapt, and we have adapted.”

Although more competition is always a positive, Mitchell said depth isn’t a major concern at cornerback.

“We have six players right now,” said the former East Carolina defensive coordinator. “That is more than enough. You would like to have five on the travel squad, possibly six depending on what the special teams’ needs are. You always want two that are developing, but you can only rep so many guys.

“If you are two deep, and you are solid, then that is great. I feel like we have a mixture of good size, speed and quickness. We still need to develop the position mastery of it, but we are progressing.”

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WVU completed its ninth practice session of the summer Saturday. It will take today off for Fan Day, which is scheduled for 1 p.m., in the Caperton Indoor Practice Facility. It’s a chance for fans to get autographs from their favorite players and coaches.

The Mountaineers will return to the practice field Monday and practice six straight days. They’ll take next Sunday off, and classes will begin Monday, Aug. 19.

— E-mail: chuffman@ and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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