Associate Head Coach (Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers) Tony Gibson
On how things change when not playing a conference opponent
It really doesn’t, we have to take the same approach, they have big play capability. From their wideouts, their running back is really good, their quarterback is good. They have some experienced guys so it is the threat of the big play, they can get behind you in coverage because of their speed on the perimeter. They’re (running) back is capable of breaking any run at any time so we have to do what we do. It is more about us at this point, preparing and making sure that our kids understand the scheme and what we are trying to do.
On how much he remembers of Miami head coach Mark Richt’s offense from the 2006 Sugar Bowl
I have studied that film a little bit. It is very similar to what they are doing now in Miami is similar to what they were doing back in 2006. We have it, we have watched it, I haven’t shared it much with the kids at this point, it’s more for coaches to look at. Again, they are a run team first, they run with power, they are more of a conventional offense, an old-school get in the “I”, it is going to look different for our guys, it is going to look foreign.
On Miami junior quarterback Brad Kaaya
He is a prototypical quarterback. They run a pro-style offense, and he sits in the pocket and reads it and delivers the ball on time where he needs to and attacks coverages. He is a good player, a big kid, he can make any throw that you want him to make. He has a very strong arm, handles it well. Don’t let him get comfortable and get his feet set.
On how to approach Miami junior quarterback Brad Kaaya in the backend of the defense
There is only a certain amount of coverages that you can play so we are going to do what we do. We are going to drop eight, we are going to drop seven, we are going to blitz seven, blitz eight, and just do what we do. Again, just making sure our kids are prepared and excited for the opportunity to play another game
Assistant Coach (Defensive Line) Bruce Tall
On facing Miami’s offensive line
It’s still the zone blocking, they’ll do more gap-scheme blocking, but as you looked at the later part of our season we started to see more of that from the spread teams. You have teams at the end that were running the gap-schemes that some of the other spread teams don’t do, so that got us prepared for these type of blocking schemes.
On the developmental work the team has done recently
I think (freshman defensive lineman) (Jeffery) Pooler (Jr.) is doing a really nice job and how he’s taking this year and really worked on getting off the ball, getting quicker and getting his body in a better condition. You can see it; he’s done a really nice job with his preparation.
On redshirt freshmen defensive linemen Adam Shuler II and Alec Shriner returning home for the bowl game
Oh yes, there is no question about it. Shuler has already let me know that there is going to be a big crew there for him and that’s exciting to know that he’s going to have his whole family and friends there at the game. He’s obviously excited about that, we’ve already talked about it. Shriner is more of a quiet type of guy, he’ll have a big crew too, but he won’t tell you.
On the performance of redshirt freshmen defensive linemen Adam Shuler II and Alec Shriner this year
Shuler has been that starter because he’s that first rotate in guy. You always think of that guy as you’re other starter. I know you have three, but he was the guy that always felt like he was going to get in immediately. I see all the nickel reps try to give him as many as possible. I also started him against Texas and even though he hasn’t had as many reps as the true starters, he’s as productive. He’s right behind them in the statistical categories. He’s a productive player and he makes plays. Shriner is one of those guys who works his tail off; he practices hard all day and then he’ll be the last guy to leave the field because he wants to do extra.
Assistant Coach (Offensive Coordinator/Fullbacks-Tight Ends) Joe Wickline
On the defense that they have faced this year that reminds him of Miami
I would say this for sure, they are definitely, if I were to pick out the top two or three defenses that we have seen, they are either at the top or they are right there. They are big in terms of measurables, they are physical, obviously, because of who they are and their history and background and the base that they have to recruit from. Being from down there, they can run extremely well and they are athletic. They are young guys and they have done a nice job getting that much what I would call ‘schooling’ and concepts and defensive fundamentals in and those young guys in that amount of time have done a nice job from a defensive coaching standpoint.
On if he looks to exploit the fact that they are young
Well you would rather play them on the front end, maybe in the beginning of the year when they are young. They have been able to make mistakes and get them fixed and do things, they are not young anymore. From a classification standpoint they are a bunch of young guys up there but they are playing like older guys.
On how to keep the players motivated after some time off
Actually, that should be pretty easy. The fact that who you are playing, we give a great deal of respect to a team who has won so many national championships and is just loaded with players up and down the field. Their name speaks for itself. As big as anything it is another opportunity, it is an occasion that we have the opportunity to go out there and play like we do and continue on and finish on the right note. We are blessed to be in this position and going to a great bowl, the Russell Athletic Bowl and also playing a great opponent. There is enough there to motivate and get them going.
Assistant Coach (Offensive Line) Ron Crook
On Redshirt Senior Offensive Linemen Tyler Orlosky and Adam Pankey playing their last game at West Virginia
I think anytime you have a group of guys, we have five guys on the offensive line that are going into their last game with us. I think anytime you get to that point you start thinking about things, and it’s funny that they talk about it all the time, the players do but it’s the same with the coaches. You don’t necessarily sit here and remember this game or that game, you remember interactions in the meeting room. You remember passing each other in the hallway and a conversation that you had that sometimes they don’t even know that it had an impact on you. Hopefully, it’s the same way with them with each other but this time of year is always exciting but there is always a little bit of thought of ‘wow this our last chance to go with this guy.’
On Miami’s defensive unit compared to past opponents this year
I would say take the best player from every defense we’ve played and put him out there at every position. That’s the nature of this time of year when you’re playing in a bowl game, that’s why good teams go to bowl games. They got really good personnel across the board, you look for a weak spot but you can’t find one. They’re all big, they’re all fast, they are the kind of defense you’d expect to see from Miami.
On Miami’s ability to block kicks
You show it to them on film, we practice PAT and field goals everyday so hopefully it becomes a little bit of second nature to them. This team is known for blocking kicks and they go after PAT’s and field goals, punts that’s kind of who they are so it’s going to be a challenge. Again, you hope that your guys go out there and perform, stay strong with their technique and if they do that we should be in good shape.
Assistant Coach (Running Backs) Ja’Juan Seider
On what kind of challenges Miami presents
I don’t care who you are, you can never simulate the kind of speed and the relentless attitude of a south Florida kid. One, they always think they’re the best kids in the world and it’s the mindset of how you grew up. You compete every week, even high school and in little league, that’s probably the most competitive little league football you’ll be around. It goes to middle school, it goes to high school and it goes to college. Those kids have more pressure on them to live up to expectations that Miami is trying to get back than any other program in the country because of the alumni. The Ray Lewis’ of the world, the Warren Sapp’s of the world, the Willis McGahee, the Edgerrin James, and those type of guys. That’s what you deal with and they’re playing a lot of young kids and you can see them running around, they can get back to being a pretty good team down there.
On the developmental work the team has done recently
For me, all of my guys are playing. It’s hard to get excited when I’m already excited about the guys we’re playing. Those things are really good for the young linemen. You get to see a guy like (redshirt sophomore quarterback) Will Grier get out there and lead the program and see how he responds in the huddle and takes charge. That gets you excited, my eyes went more to that part than anything because like I said my two freshman running backs are already playing.
On how difficult it is recruiting south Florida players
The biggest thing that people fail to realize is south Florida kids will leave, period. They aren’t stuck there saying they have to go to Miami, Florida or Florida State because they’ve seen so many kids leave and have success. We have Geno’s (Smith) of the world and Stedman’s (Bailey) of the world. Alabama is out there getting kids, Louisville is getting kids out of there and you go back and look at their history in West Virginia. Hell, the majority of our kids have always come from south Florida. It’s who you put on recruiting that area and it’s the area where everybody gets caught up in the stars, well that’s an area where the underrated kid is just as good as that kid if they get out there and work hard enough, its proven. I don’t think it is any different than it ever was. It helps that Miami was down, I am sure that they are more excited with (Miami head coach) Mark Richt there, again it is preference and it still goes back to relationships. If you have a good relationship with head coaches or assistant coaches or parents or alumni in the area, they still are going to want to send their kids to guys that they trust
Senior Quarterback Skyler Howard
On his impressions of the Miami defense
They fly around. They look good. They recruit well, big bodies and they move fast. They do a bunch of different stuff in the back end also, they keep the safeties back, a lot of help over the top. They feel really good about their guys up front so they feel like they can drop those guys back and not have to man-blitz a lot.
On how difficult it is to read Miami’s defense
Just understand what they are trying to do and understanding what we want to do in those situations. When I see certain tendencies, make the correct checks, stuff I have been drilled on and stuff that I will be drilled on throughout the next two weeks.
On if it is hard to pick up where you left off after a break
No, I don’t think so. After you have been doing it this long, over the course of a 12-week season, if you take a week off, you can just jump right back into it. The week is good to get your mind and body right and then get back into it and jump in and go harder than you were.
Redshirt Senior Offensive Lineman Tyler Orlosky
On balancing the fun and work aspect of a bowl game
It’s tough, you’re in a new place. A lot of fun things you can do in that place but you have to realize why you’re there, that’s for the game. Doing those things are hard but it’s something we’re good at doing. The coaching staff does a great job putting us in a good place.
On getting back into rhythm after the break
There are some difficulties to it but that goes back to the coaching staff getting us ready and us understanding why we are going to this bowl. That is to win a football game and we have a good opponent. It’s going to be a good matchup renewing the rivalry of the Big East that we’ve had and I think it’s going to be a great time.
On what it means to be a college football player
It presents its own challenges, like you said there are times you wake up the next day after the game and you can barely roll out of bed. It’s part of your responsibility as a college football player when you sign your letter of intent it’s something you’re signing on to do. It’s tough at times, but they are paying for our school and we have to repay them with something so that’s our repayment back to the school.
On reflecting on this being his last game as a Mountaineer
I don’t really think about that kind of stuff. I’ll probably think about it after the fact.
Redshirt Junior Wide Receiver Shelton Gibson
On if he has thoughts about the NFL
I haven’t been thinking about the NFL. I’ve just been thinking about playing this season, going into this bowl game and playing my best game.
On what he hopes to get out of this bowl game beside a win
It’s the last game and it sends you off into the next season. Coming off a good bowl game it makes you want to go work harder because you saw you played another conference like the ACC, playing Miami, one of the better teams out there. We played a SEC team, we played all the Big 12 teams and Miami was a good team that gave people a run for their money.
On what the offseason will be like after the bowl game
You’re not really allowed to be around the coaches, so after the first bowl game, the Liberty Bowl, I prepared, but I didn’t prepare like I did last offseason because I knew my role. I had to play a bigger role and I started before in high school, but it was so much easier when talent goes out the door so my hard work had to come in so I knew I had to prepare better this offseason. Next season I’m going to have to prepare even more.
Redshirt Senior Safety Jarrod Harper
On what they need to do to disrupt Miami
I’m sure we’ll get some pressure on them, like we always do. We’re not going to change what we do just because of who we are playing. We need to get pressure on them, make them move around in the pocket we can force them into some bad decisions.
On Miami’s running backs
Yeah, like I said they’ve got good backs, they run hard. They’re not real big but they are stocky and thick backs, so we just have to gang tackle and make sure we wrap up and bring our arms when we tackle them.
On the team health wise
Having a week off, a couple weeks off it allowed everyone to get their body back. Everyone was living in the training room trying to get back up. Right now I’d say we’re almost back to 100% as a whole team.
On what it would mean to get this 11th win
That’s definitely been our goal all year. We want to get to 11 wins. Our goal is to get double-digit wins. We’ve accomplished that but to be one of the best teams to come through West Virginia and have an 11- win season that means a lot to us and we want to send the seniors out on top. That’s our goal and the 28th after the game, our goal is to be 11-2 and to sing country roads one last time and be remembered as one of the best teams to come through West Virginia.
Redshirt Junior Linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton
On what Miami junior quarterback Brad Kaaya does well
He is really good with decision making, he doesn’t make a lot of bad decisions. He tries to minimize those mistakes, so you can’t capitalize on them that is one thing that he is good with. His efficiency is decent and he has a decent ball down the field. They will run the ball, run the ball, run the ball and then take a shot. He can make some pretty big plays, pretty good passes downfield he has some guys that can make some pretty good plays for them.
On Miami’s run straight ahead mentality in the running game
I would assume so. That is why I eluded to the fact that if I had to pick anybody, I would say that they are most like Oklahoma. They feel like they are better than you, they are going to lineup and try to intimidate you and try to run the ball down your throat. That is something we will be ready for.
On if the rest before a bowl game helps or gets the team out of rhythm
The rest helps. We had some guys that were a little nicked up so it gave them a chance to get in and get extra treatments. Young guys who may have to play because some guys are hurt, this gives them some time to get in and get a feel for what it means to be out there and the preparation. In my opinion, this extra time helps us in the long run to help everybody get out there that we need and for those that need to step up, give them time to get out there and prepare for the chance that they will get.
Redshirt Senior Cornerback Rasul Douglas
On the challenges that Miami presents
It’s a balanced team. A team who actually runs the ball and passes the ball 50/50 percent of the game. Got some kids on the outside who can go, they have a skilled tight end, and they have thee good running backs with a good quarterback.
On his decision to come to West Virginia
Yes, definitely paid off. I am so happy with my decision. I’ve gotten better as a football player and as a man. I have matured a lot so I am happy I came here to play my last two years of football.
On if he pays attention to the post-season lists
I don’t really know. I don’t really pay attention to it. I just try to play my game. That’s not up to me so I don’t pay attention to it.
On making one last impact on the program
Yes. Just trying to play a good game. Trying to actually win and be one of the six teams, there is already five but this will be the sixth team to win 11 games. Just trying to do that.