Now, whether that’s simply a coach using media to further an agenda is an unknown. But there’s a sense of truth to Dawson’s voice when he talks about what he has gotten – or, rather hasn’t – out of the group.
“All I’m asking you to do is play fast, run fast,” Dawson said. “It’s not that difficult. My brother has five kids. I can get them out there running full speed. (One of the reasons) you were recruited was because you run fast, so run fast. All I’m asking them to do is block and run hard. … Blocking is 100 percent effort. We aren’t doing that yet, so until we do I’m not asking them to do much else. All you can do is get up there and fight your ass off. I’d be thrilled (with effort). Even if you run the wrong route, I could care less. Just show effort.”
That inability to yet comprehend what it requires to play at a Big 12 level has bothered Dawson to an extent. The coach knows WVU still has enough practices with which to overcome the problems. And it has some talent and pure physical ability in K.J. Myers, in Kevin White, in Mario Alford and Daikiel Shorts and Jacky Marcellus and Devonte Mathis and Ivan McCartney – though no individual names were mentioned. But if this was, indeed, simply for motivation, Dawson laid it on thick.
“Yesterday, it was extremely frustrating for the first part of practice, and then there were motivational tactics used by me and a few other coaches and finally they started playing fast,” Dawson said. “I think you’re dealing with a bunch of new guys and they’re coming from high school or junior college and it’s a new game. You’re not going to get open if you jog routes. You can’t not stress your body as hard as you can stress it and expect to get open. It’s not going to happen.”
Dawson said the “group of guys” who play will, in all probability, be no more than eight. He said there would be four outside receivers and three to four inside receivers. That, he noted, is the way it has always been with this offense, and there hasn’t been many more depth numbers than that throughout its development. Any more than that, and there aren’t enough practice repetitions for everybody else.
“Now’s the time,” Dawson said. “We’ve already repped, repped, repped. The patience level I talked about at the beginning of camp until now with new guys, that patience level is getting thinner. At this point, with what we want to do offensively, you should know what to do. … I can’t (yet)narrow it down and just start pouring reps into one or two guys. You learn by repetition. You don’t learn by watching film and on a white board. You learn by motor memory. You have to do it over and over again and it takes time.
“It’s the same mistakes, (Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey made early in their careers). Eventually, they get it because we don’t ask them to do a whole lot. … But we can see. Eventually, in the next two to three days, we are going to start limiting reps. We can tell who has the potential or the capacity and who doesn’t. We are going to start limiting and pouring reps into guys pretty quick. We are never going to come together offensively until we settle on who we are. And I’m not talking about starters. I’m talking about a group of guys. Some of them are going to be starters and some are back-ups. But we can’t sit there and rep four-deep.”
West Virginia will, ultimately, have the four best receivers on the field most often. If that reads like it’s a basic for all teams, that’s because it is. When all tangibles are considered – size, hands, game intelligence, effort – WVU will have four initially contributing players, and four back-ups. Dawson said the staff would not hesitate to move a player from outside receiver to inside, or vice versa, if, for example, that player was the third-best outside wideout but among the best inside players. That happened with former Mountaineer J.D. Woods, who blossomed after the slight position change and is now performing solidly in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ NFL camp.
“We’ll dump reps into you (if you show the ability),” Dawson said. “But we need to do it now. You don’t want to do it in the middle of the season.”
Dawson was asked if, perhaps, West Virginia simply had too much of a good thing; too many players capable of competing at a high level. That thought was quashed quickly.
“We don’t,” he said. “Don’t worry about that, because we don’t. You could probably put (new WVU running back Charles Sims) at inside receiver right now and he would probably do things better than the guys we have. That’s the honesty of it. And that’s more the inside receivers’ fault. They have had max reps to do it right. They are just lazy and won’t do it. Whatever. We will find somebody that will.”