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WVU football: Holgorsen is hopeful his players stay in line

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Want to know what Dana Holgorsen hopes to read about his West Virginia football team today?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Spring football is finished. The draft is done. It'll be months before good things begin to happen, which means the alternative is all that's available.

If the Mountaineers coach had his way, he'd go all the way through the end of July and neither see nor hear anything about the team that's about to take great expectations into the Big 12 Conference beginning next season.

Oh, glowing features and optimistic columns will be typed from now until then, but he'll ignore them, even the ones he contributes to along the way. That's the way he and so many other coaches happen to be wired. If he and his coaches and their players are doing their jobs, be it individually or collectively, the attention is merely a byproduct.

The lead position on your favorite dot-com, the spot above the fold on the front page of your local sports section, the magazine covers? Comes with the territory, and since he didn't get into the business for any of that, he's not going to get excited and pay much attention to them now.

Yet if his gaze is drawn to a particular periodical sometime soon, it's quite likely for the wrong reason and it probably contains the following statement we've come to know too well:

"I have been made aware of the situation and am gathering facts at this time. I will take appropriate action when all the facts are in."

That's the canned response Holgorsen issues when someone steps out of bounds off the field. And that is WVU's concern right now, before the Mountaineers meet Marshall or battle with Baylor's Bears.

The players are dealing with their final exams this week and then have time to themselves for a vacation, of sorts, before returning to summer school May 21. The NCAA rules will keep the coaches separate from the players, which translates into the players having a lot of time on their hands.

You don't need to have spent a lot of time in Armstrong Hall to solve that equation.

"There are a whole bunch of eyes on these guys," Holgorsen said after the spring game a little more than one delightfully uneventful week ago. "That's just the reality of West Virginia football."

People can underscore the value of weight rooms and conditioning regimens and 7-on-7 stuff all they want, but you can't win championships in the summer. You can certainly lose them. An arrest, a suspension an academic casualty, anything uninvited can be debilitating.

Teams start heading toward their ultimate destinations now. Players can wander at any time and they sure don't have trouble finding trouble in a season, but this is different. There is liberation involved now and those coaches who crave control and craft practice plans down to the minute and game plans that cover every variable imaginable really have no control.

They simply slide back in the pocket, throw one deep, close their eyes and trust their players won't drop the ball.

"We encourage them to take a vacation," Holgorsen said. "Vacations don't exist at Thanksgiving because you're playing games. They don't exist at Christmas and New Year's because you're playing games. So this is the only time guys really get.

"We encourage them to get out of here, but with that comes responsibility as well. We remind them a whole bunch of eyes are on them and we remind them if they want to be a part of the program, they have to do the right thing."

They return to campus and they have to keep doing the right thing. The wrong things have consequences and they can cost a player and his team dearly. If it doesn't cost him or his team games, if it doesn't compromise chemistry, it can create a perception that lasts.

Witness Bruce Irvin, who identified his problems as an adolescent and addressed them with remarkable maturity and success before he kept his nose tidy for two years at WVU. NFL teams were nevertheless curious about his missteps and when he was arrested last month for something wholly unrelated, it recycled the old stories. When old tales were combined with the new one, it made him look like a first-rate dummy and not a first-round draft pick.

And wouldn't you know it, the story about those charges being dismissed never made the news until Irvin volunteered the information the night he was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks. That's the way those things go.

The way things have to go for WVU, a team that will be ranked in the preseason polls and could find itself in the top 15, is simple. Just do football. Players can have lives. They are college kids, after all. But they can have fun and they can live free and they can still fulfill all their academic and athletic obligations.

"For our team, a lot of young guys may have, I would say, the thought of not wanting to work out," said defensive end Will Clarke. "But we all follow each other on Twitter. We all text one another, so when a lot of guys say they just got done working out, you get a guilty conscience, like, 'Oh, man, I've got to work out. Will just got done working out.'

"If everyone goes and takes care of his own business, we already see us as a family, so as a whole we'll make sure we're all doing what we need to do."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.


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