Mike Casazza: Similarities abound for WVU hoops, football
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Dana Holgorsen has something he'd like to tell you about his offense, though West Virginia's football coach knows you're probably not willing to accept it.
"You can see some things happening that show improvement," he said this week. "Whether you want to believe that or not, you can see some things."
By his estimation, the players who throw, catch and run the ball for the Mountaineers (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) and those who block for the aforementioned have figured out fundamentals and are tacking down technique. They're playing past mistakes and pushing through difficult spots to find ones they find more enjoyable.
These are the things that normally happen before the season and not after six games, but there's very little that's normal about these Mountaineers, their three quarterbacks, their two embarrassing defeats and their one upset of a ranked opponent.
"I wish I was sitting here after six games saying that we know who we are, where we're at and where we're going," Holgorsen said. "That's not the current situation."
The honesty doesn't make the reality easier to accept. Fact is, many of these issues shouldn't be there. A program should replenish the talent supply. Changes to the coaching staff that result in changes in tactics should first consider the capability of the personnel.
But three quarterbacks are still three quarterbacks. Two shoulder injuries are oftentimes too much to overcome. The fact both Ford Childress and Clint Trickett are new and working with new players only complicates matters.
"We've got a quarterback trying to throw a post route to five different guys that he's never thrown that to," Holgorsen said. "Based on how fast the receivers are and the relationship between the quarterback and that specific receiver, the ball needs to be thrown accordingly. This is stuff that happens in the course of a second."
Well, don't look now - not in the middle of an open week before WVU tangles with another volatile offense, and another likely ranked and unbeaten opponent, when No. 20 Texas Tech (5-0, 2-0) comes to town Oct. 19 - but the basketball team is seemingly stuck in the same predicament.
The program hasn't replenished the roster, which this season will have two junior college transfers and four freshmen. The new players won't quickly do what Bob Huggins wants them do to because one junior college transfer will probably be prohibited from playing, one freshman forward is either injured, ineligible or both and because the other two big bodies who are supposed to play inside are freshmen who aren't used to playing the way WVU wants to play.
All in all, it's lining up like another story about a team with a lot of new receivers and a lot of pressure on the quarterback to get to know who does what.
The difference for the basketball Mountaineers, the reason to hope before you believe that things might be different, is that their quarterback has been around. Their quarterback regrets the way last season went. Their quarterback is on a mission to make things right.
Their quarterback is Juwan Staten, the junior point guard who had ups and downs throughout his second year and first season after transferring from Dayton. Staten - who was voted a team captain before the start of the 2012-13 season, but ended up getting benched because Huggins basically didn't like the way Staten was playing - saw the challenges coming. He's ready to work around them.
"For the last two years, I was used to playing with Jabarie Hinds, Aaron Brown, Keaton Miles," Staten said of former teammates who transferred in the offseason. "I knew what they were going to do and the things they weren't going to do. I knew how they'd react to certain situations. This year, bringing in new teammates, I honestly didn't know what to expect."
Huggins didn't replace his lost guards, Brown and Hinds, with two guards. He didn't swap Miles with another forward. Jonathan Holton is a refined power forward from Palm Beach State College who Huggins seems resigned to redshirt this season because of Holton's yet unexplained playing prohibition.
Elijah Macon, Devin Williams and Brandon Watkins are high school forwards who aren't used to running to the ball like they must in WVU's offense, but Macon most likely won't play this season because of a wrist injury and eligibility.
Remi Dibo is a junior college forward who shoots. Nathan Adrian is a high school forward who shoots.
Staten's been getting to know new names and games. Staten said Dibo and Adrian are both shooters who can hit from all over the floor, but shooters who can miss shots and start to worry about it. He's discovered they bounce back when told they've made the shots they missed thousands of times before and that Staten is going to pass them the ball again soon.
Watkins and Williams have the talent, but Staten said they need time to get used to the opposing talent at this level. He constantly reminds both to play with intensity and to sustain that energy so that they can show off their physical gifts.
"I really paid close attention to them in the summer playing with them in open gym and team workouts," Staten said. "Learning their tendencies was one thing I wanted to pick up on. I knew I'd have a lot of new teammates but I wanted to pick up on their tendencies, and I just did that by being around them a lot on and off the court."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.