WVU defense ahead of game
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — One side of the football typically dominates in spring camp, and that`s what West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen thought would happen this year.
With a new defense but almost all of his players back on offense, he thought the offense would have the upper hand.
He`s happy he was wrong.
'I had a little concern about that,' Holgorsen said, 'since we have a new defensive scheme, and on offense, we`ve got nine starters back.
'That hasn`t been the case. The defense has done well. We`ll make some plays on them, but then, they make some stops. We make some plays, then they get some stops. I`m happy with the competitive nature.'
Despite the new scheme, West Virginia`s defense is ahead of where it was last year, Holgorsen said, and players feel better equipped for the season.
'I think everybody`s attitude and how much simpler it is for other people to pick it up ... I think we are (too),' linebacker Doug Rigg said. 'People like Josh Francis are going to be a star in this defense. It`s going to be fun to watch this year. Guys who had trouble grasping it are in easier roles.'
Francis, a senior linebacker, came to Morgantown from junior college last year with high expectations because of his athleticism. However, he never fully grasped the concepts of last season`s 3-3-5 stack. It`s been easier for him and others to understand this system.
'It`s more of a freestyle and fluent type of play,' Francis said.
While there are some overlapping principles from the previous defense, there are a lot fewer rules. Players are relying more on their instincts, simply reacting and going after the ball.
That`s led to more success for the defense.
'Last year in practice, we would struggle against the offense a lot even though they just put in their offense,' Rigg said. 'It`s good now that we have a brand new defense that we`re stopping them. I thought it was going to be much harder to stop them, but it`s a great sign.'
That`s particularly true considering the offenses West Virginia will face in the Big 12. The conference owned three of last season`s top five offensive attacks and four of the top 10 scoring offenses in the nation.
However, the Mountaineers may be more prepared to handle the task. In their 3-4 defense, players have found it easier to stop the run, a problem they had at times last season. It also allows the best athletes to remain on the field against high-powered passing attacks.
'We know this is an offensive game, and we know the Big 12 puts up points,' Rigg said. 'We know it`s going to happen at one point on a busted coverage that someone`s going to break free, but we have the mentality, ‘Bend but don`t break.` When it comes to big plays, that`s the mindset we have to have.'