By Staff Report.
Monday morning West Virginia receiver’s coach Shannon Dawson held a press conference to preview the Orange Bowl.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, you’re now just a few days away from the game. What is left for your team to get ready?
COACH DAWSON: Get them to the game. That’s it, that’s all that’s left to do. We’re going to do a quick little practice today, a little walk?through tomorrow, and if we can get them to the game with nobody else getting hurt, we’ll be blessed.
Q. Just in terms of game philosophy, what you see out of Clemson defensively, some of the things that they do well that maybe you can try to exploit or things they don’t do well?
COACH DAWSON: Well, I mean, they’re athletic and they’re fast. You know, I think we’ve played some pretty good defenses as the year goes on this year, but their size, their DBs are probably a little bigger than some of the guys we’ve played. I mean, probably a lot like LSU’s were, bigger guys. But just their athletic ability. They run around. Their D?line is athletic. It’s not like they try to fool you or anything; they’re just going to line up and try to hit you in the mouth, so hopefully we can g! et somebody open every now and again.
Q. With Stedman and Tavon, a lot of people thought they would have the capability of 1,000?yard seasons. From your vantage point, what do you think they did best in order to reach that potential this year?
COACH DAWSON: Just kept playing. I mean, the thing about receivers, and you can watch the news and everything, receivers want the ball. And so I mean, that’s fine. You get a little bit down if you don’t get the ball or whatever, but that’s the one thing we keep telling them. You’ve just got to continue playing and being modest. The game is going to come to you, don’t press. And I think that’s one thing they’ve done a good job of is just be being happy when the other guy gets the balls and then bloc! king. They’re really a selfless group. I mean, Stedman does one heck of a job blocking, and Tavon, for the size, he does a good job blocking, too.
That’s the one thing with the whole group, I mean, if you’re going to have receivers to get those number of yards and everything, it’s got to be a selfless group. They’ve got to block and do the things that everybody else does, and that’s one thing they’ve done a great job of.
Q. With the breaks in practice that you’ve had since the end of the season, how has that affected the offense’s timing, and after a few days off, how long does it take for you and the receivers to get it back?
COACH DAWSON: I’ll tell you that at halftime on the 4th. I don’t know. There’s been times where we’ve had weeks off in the past, and we’ve came back and played great. There’s been times where we had weeks off and came back and we couldn’t complete a ball. If I had to answer to that, I’d put it in a bottle and sell it to every coach in America. But I don’t know.
Right now it’s kind of hard to tell because we’re not doing ?? with the limited number of kids we have, we’re just trying to stay healthy for the game. And so we’re not really taking a lot of reps versus our defense, stuff that we’ve done throughout the course of the year. And so to answer that question, when the bullets start flying on the 4th, I think everybody in this room will be able to tell.
Q. At the start of the season, you said you were hoping to develop eight players in the rotation. Obviously you didn’t get to that level because of injuries and other things. How much has that affected your practice schedule and then in the games the things what you were trying to do?
COACH DAWSON: It affects us in the sense that the way we organize practice, I mean, receivers are running and catching balls continuously throughout the course of the practice. And so you’d really like to have at least three ?? ideally four at each position, just so they don’t die. We’ve had two. You know, we’ve had two at each position. If you just do the math, that doubles their reps at practice.
And so we’ve had to do a really good job of just slowing down periods and just keeping in mind ?? I mean, and just conversation, I just talked to Tavon and talked to the guys, and their legs are tired. I mean, they’re honest; I can tell their legs are tired. You’ve just got to do a good job of gauging that. But with the limited number of kids we have, it hurts the reps at practice more than anything.
Q. I know because of the injuries you haven’t been able to do a lot of live stuff. Is that more of a concern, like full tackling? Is that more of a concern offensively or defensively, or offensively how do you react if you don’t do a lot of tackling?
COACH DAWSON: We don’t do any tackling from day one, and I don’t know many programs that do anymore. I mean, to be honest with you, none that I’ve ever coached on have ever done any live tackling unless it’s like a scrimmage situation, and we don’t do a lot of those, either. To be honest with you, that’s probably more of a defensive question than anything, because ultimately in the game you’ve got to get the guy on the ground, you know, thud him up, which is what we do in practice. You just kind of collide with him and let him go.
But I don’t think it’s been a problem with us this year. It seems to me, and I’m not sitting there watching game film of our defense or anything, but it seems to me we’ve been tackling pretty good. And that’s a question that you go in and out of every season. I mean, is it beneficial? Is it not beneficial? I’ve always leaned towards keeping kids healthy. If you get them to the game healthy, you’ve got a better chance of winning than if you don’t. That’s pretty simple.
Q. Coach Holgorsen yesterday said that some kids during Bowl practices get better and Connor really had done that and unfortunately had the accident. Can you tell how he had kind of gotten better during the Bowl practices?
COACH DAWSON: He was getting a lot more reps, and that’s one thing that Connor is a great kid. His work ethic is unbelievable. He was getting reps due to the fact that Tyler has been hurt. We’ve had some other kids hurt. So with those reps and his work ethic, he has been improving. It’s unfortunate because the kid is sitting in a situation as a true freshman that he’d probably get some reps in the game, in an Orange Bowl game. So unfortunate for him.
But he’s got a long career. The injury he’s got, he’s going to heal up, so he’ll be fine.
Q. A lot of times in Bowl games with the time off, players come off during the game with cramps or various injuries because they’ve had so much time away from the game. What do you or some of the strength and conditioning coaches tell or stress to the players to avoid potential injuries or cramps like that?
COACH DAWSON: I don’t know. I mean, the humidity is a little different down here. As far as cramps go, is that what you’re asking?
COACH DAWSON: Cramps are really not that big of a deal. They get over with pretty quick. I mean, I’m not a trainer or a nutritionist expert or anything like that. But this stuff right here in this bottle helps out with cramps from what I’ve been told, so we just tell them to keep hydrated. I think our first practice down here was a little bit taxing based on the fact that there’s a lot more water in the air that we’re sucking in, and so they got tired. So you’ve got to get acclimated to it. I think! that’s why people, when you play on trips like this, you at least get five or six practices there, so you kind of get acclimated to that. But cramps hasn’t been a problem for us since we’ve been here. It hasn’t been a problem all year, so I don’t foresee that being a problem.
Q. Your top guys, Bailey, Austin, those people, are they better than you thought they’d be when you first got a lot of them a year ago, that sort of thing?
COACH DAWSON: I mean, I think you can tell pretty quick that they’re special players. You never know how a kid’s attitude is going to be, and I think that’s the most important thing. A lot of times when you’re dealing with kids that have been good their whole life, then they have a little bit of sense of entitlement to them, and that’s one thing as coaches, you’ve got to either get it out of them or hope and pray that they don’t have it.
So that’s one thing that I would say that I’ve been more surprised with more than their ability. I could tell they had ability on day one. But I was pleased with the fact that they’re selfless. I was pleased with the fact that they continue to go out and work every day just like they’re trying to prove themselves, and so that’s the best part about those guys.
Q. For guys like Geno and Stedman who obviously go way back through high school, how much does that off?the?field relationship turn into a chemistry on the field?
COACH DAWSON: I think it has a lot to do with it. I mean, those guys, their chemistry and just being on the same page, it’s a lot to say even just catching balls from the same guy for how many ?? I don’t even know how many years they’ve been catching balls from each other, ten years maybe. But those guys have an unbelievable rapport out there, and their chemistry is great, and I think that has a lot to do with their success, no doubt. It’s all about reps when you get down to it, and they’ve had a lot of reps together.
Q. You seemed during the course of the season to keep your receivers kind of grounded. Even when they had great games you found something to criticize them for.
COACH DAWSON: (Laughs.) Dana does that to me, too.
Q. At the end of the day are you ready to say that they’ve had a pretty good year, or do you still see a lot of room for improvement or at least want to convey to them that they still have a lot of room for improvement?
COACH DAWSON: I look at it more of as a unit. I mean, I think as a unit we have improving to do, especially in throwing the ball down the field and just as a whole unit and the whole offensive perspective of it. But those guys, yeah, they had a great year. I know what you’re talking about and I know a couple of those weeks they had really good games. It’s not like I’m a psychic or anything, but I remember distinctly before one game they had a great week, and I was trying to keep them grounded or whatever and we ended up getting beat. Do you ! remember that week? I remember that week.
And so I think that the bottom line is you’ve got to forget about the game before. You’ve got to forget about the play before. I’ve always had the motto of play the next play, regardless of whether it’s a great play or a bad play. You’ve got to have short?term memory. And that’s the one thing, all that praise and everything, I mean, I tell them I care about them and tell them they had a great game all the time.
But the bottom line is they have to do a good job of just living the next play and playing in the present. Don’t really get too caught up in what happened last week or what happened last play. And I think your greater players tend to do that.
Q. You’ve known Dana for quite some time, but there’s been a long gap in between when you played for him and then coaching with him now. How did you guys stay so close those years to the point where you know his offense very well and it’s been a pretty smooth transition?
COACH DAWSON: Well, for some reason we hit it off right at the beginning, and I don’t know what that is. Maybe we have similar personalities. I don’t really know. But my relationship with him was the reason I got into coaching, and so ?? and I didn’t want to coach in any other offense than the one I played in because that was fun for me.
So just when I graduated college, he helped me get on with a coach, coach Hal Mumme, and just stayed in contact, and I went and visited him out at Texas Tech a lot. Like I said, I mean, the only reason I got into coaching was because when I played for him, I had fun, and I had fun in the offense, practice was fun, the way it was structured was fun, it was laid?back, and so with that being the case, I chose to do that from that point.
And then didn’t just ?? me making an effort to stay in contact and go visit throughout the course of the year, just wanting to learn more about the offense basically is what it was.
Q. Can you explain or give the story on the shirts that a lot of the coaches have been wearing, the “insanity,” why “insanity” is there in front of “play hard, play fast” ?? what’s the third one?
COACH DAWSON: Well, I hadn’t really paid too much attention to it to be honest with you. I just think that ?? I don’t really know ?? to answer your question, I don’t know. I wear the shirt like everybody else does, but I wear a lot of shirts that I don’t know what the hell they mean. (Laughter.)
But in my opinion I just think it has to do with just being a little bit crazy. To play this game and to play it the right way, a little reckless abandonment type deal, you’ve got to be a little bit insane. You’ve got to think outside the box a little bit. Heck, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it and everybody would be good at it. So you’ve got to have a little bit of insanity to go out there and do the things they’re doing, full speed and just let it go. That’s my guess. I don’t know. You! can ask Mike Joseph that when you see him.