All-Access: Hunkering down with the Mountaineers

Bruce Feldman goes behind-the-scenes for West Virginia’s preparation for LSU:

The staff is waist deep in LSU film. Most of the WVU coaches will go home soon after the team meal. Meanwhile, Holgorsen settles into what staffers affectionately call “The Lounge” to resume studying the Tigers. The 10-by-20 room next to the head coach’s office, which used to be where former WVU coach Bill Stewart would smoke his cigars, has been remodeled and now has two theater-style seats, a few bar stools, an antique metal Coke cart, a Red Bull cooler and a 50-inch flat screen with an Xbox. Holgorsen likes the feel of the room for whenever he wants to have a one-on-one with a player. It’s also an ideal spot for the coach and Spavital to get another look at a ferocious defense.

The scouting tape, broken down by situations, isn’t supposed to seem like “a highlight tape,” but in LSU’s case, it does. On one clip, backup defensive end Barkevious Mingo roars down the line of scrimmage to level an Oregon running back. Holgorsen rewinds the clip twice to double check where Mingo began the play from and exactly how he was able to get to the ball carrier so fast. “This is why you run the outside zone,” he says, “because that guy right there [the defensive end] is not supposed to be able to do that. And that’s friggin’ LaMichael James too.”

Read the whole thing.

  • Vince Cashdollar? No fucking way. That is not a real name.

  • Mr.Murder

    The look they walk no. 7 down, is the WVU passer under center? Run right at him from gun and switch a 300 plus OL on him, bet it slows that S down the rest of the game. See if you can pinch to him(under center) or trap(gun) the guy you switch off of, for how your line blocks. If not, reach no.7 with the C and tunnel behind the side of the line you’d otherwise slide to replace those gaps.

    Off 2 the races….

  • John Phamlore

    I am glad that WVU under Holgorsen at least played their offense which is throwing the football.

    I can remember at least three confrontations, Florida versus Alabama in Tebow’s last SEC championship game, Oregon versus Auburn in last year’s title game, and Oregon versus LSU to start this season, where a spread offense with more emphasis on running the football didn’t even feel confident enough to run their regular offense; instead, throwing the football.

    When Oregon trails lesser teams even down by more than a touchdown they are very patient continuing to hand the ball off to the running back from first through third down knowing that he can break a big play at any time.  The current incarnation’s ascent began I believe in a game at Purdue where Oregon played horrendously first half and should have trailed by 17 except for a stupid Purdue turnover.  The second half Oregon was pinned deep and instead of panicking even inside their 10, they simply handed off the ball to the running back who broke a huge run.

    Apparently against teams who appear physically superior in the film room the accepted strategy for reasons I do not quite understand is to try and have one’s team run plays that aren’t the team’s regular offense.  An egregious example in my opinion is Urban Meyer’s strategy versus Alabama in that SEC title game where Florida actually ran their regular offense of the dive play up the middle which gained decent yardage for a few plays until they inexplicably abandoned the inside running plays for everything to the edge whether run or pass.  This is the same Florida offense with Tebow coming off a concussion that Urban Meyer felt comfortable with running the dive play over and over versus LSU and grinding out a low-scoring win.  Should the presence of an athlete such as the apparently immovable Terrence Cody be a reason to abandon one’s regular offense, especially in the case of Florida which had offensive linemen the Pouncey twins who may both have NFL careers superior to Cody’s?  I have my doubts, and from a fan’s perspective, I would rather see a team lose badly with their regular offense than see it abandon that offense even if it seems to make the game a bit closer.

    Almost every game when Navy’s coaches analyze film the other side must appear to have a physical talent gap as large as that between LSU and WVU.  That would hardly be a reason for Navy to go out there and throw the ball 40+ times.

  • larry hoover

    I love all your articles.Unrelated, but can you please write a how to on reading the defense as a quarterback.

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    Far be it from me to question Chip Kelly, but it does seem like he’s gotten a bit pass happy in a few games where the other team has a great defensive line and gets penetration. I remember that Purdue game well; also even last year’s Stanford game when Oregon got way behind early and then just methodically came back. That said, even though Oregon’s O looked shaky against LSU, without the turnovers and botched special teams (recurring theme?) it’s probably a much closer game. I think LSU’s offense was better against WVU than it was against Oregon, other than late in the game.

  • 4.0 Point Stance

    Great piece. I wonder how on earth Feldman convinces these coaches to give him these all access passes.

  • Husky fan

    I have searched in vain for an email link to contact Chris. I have a request/suggestion for a future feature.

    Steve Sarkisian’s offense has finally really started to take off at Washington in year three with Keith Price at QB. I haven’t ever seen a Sarkisian playbook or much in-depth discussion of his Xs and Os philosophy online. And believe me, I’ve looked. His offense seems to do a lot of Boise-ish things, in terms of the multiplicity of formations and complexity of pre-snap motions. I would love to read some real analysis of what UW tries to do on offense and how they are successful.

    If that isn’t of interest to you, I would be just a grateful for any links to something somebody else has written on-line that addresses these topics. 

    Thanks in advance.

  • Anonymous

    Sarkisian is pretty simple. He’s not chincy with the coaching clinics and the Nike COY clinics have several pieces on him. He played for Norm Chow at BYU and then coached with Norm and Lane Kiffin at USC, so that’s the base of what he does. The run game is all pro-style stuff — zone, etc — and then he wants to throw play-action off it. He runs the BYU concepts but with a few more downfield concepts, like the deep scissors (outside guy on post and inside guy on corner) and double-post.

    He’s had to evolve due to personnel and uses a bit of spread stuff like the zone read, but nothing real major or sophisticated — not because he doesn’t know it but that’s not the direction he wants to go. In terms of Boise-ish personnel/formations, I haven’t studied closely enough but he definitely mixes it up, but I think his inspiration is more what he sees on Sundays than what the Broncos have done.

    Overall he’s a good coach. It’s taken him a bit to get his guys in but I think it’ll work for him. FYI my email is on the right side of the page (just use a little ingenuity): chris [at] You have to be careful because there are web crawlers that pick up email addresses and spam you unbelievably.

  • kalos_kagathos

     “Sarkisian is pretty simple.”

    Funny, all the defensive coordinators say his multiple sets/formations are the most complicated they see.

    Eye of the beholder.