The Swagger Is Back

There's confidence in the air at Milan Puskar Stadium these days. And, it's not just the rap music pumping through the speakers at practice this fall. These Mountaineers have an attitude.

"Anytime you come into something new, you kind of get a sense that it's time for change," said senior defensive tackle Julian Miller. "It feels different for you, so it's time to go out there and see what's new."

This type of swagger comes in different forms. And it can be seen all over the practice field and interview room during fall camp.

There's senior defensive end Bruce Irvin, who breeds confidence from that dreadlock-filled head and nasty smack talk.

His demeanor inside a practice and on Saturdays is no different. He jumps around and yells at the top of his lungs to try to pump himself, and his team, up.

Irvin admits that he tries his best to impersonate defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich at times with a booming yell.

"I start to go off sometimes. But, that's just how I am," Irvin said. "I'm not a rah-rah type of guy, but when I see something I don't like, I definitely say something. I don't hold it in, because if you do it's going to keep happening."

Miller said Irvin can pump up his fellow teammates when he's only trying to motivate himself.

"Bruce is kind of weird, because it's more of like motivation for himself in an outward way so people hear it and get motivated themselves," Miller added.

Irvin isn't the only player making noise, but he is the loudest. Others, like junior quarterback Geno Smith, do things a bit different.

He garners less headlines for the things he says, but he still has the confidence of one of the nations' best signal callers.

"His confidence is so high. I have to remind him of that sometimes," said head coach Dana Holgorsen of Smith. "With Geno, we don't have to do any patting on the back. If he makes a big play, he's going to let everyone know about it."

That type of confidence wasn't as evident across the board last year at this time.

In fact, that type of attitude hasn't been part of the Mountaineers' program since the middle of former head coach Bill Stewart's first year in 2008.

The program, which had its best-ever success in 2005-07, was nowhere near it was then in Stewart's last year. It seemed that losing had almost become acceptable.

Sure, the combination of then-senior offensive stars Noel Devine and Jock Sanders made their cases for being "Batman" and "Superman" in front of certain T.V. cameras – but it was nothing like this year.

"Coach Holgorsen and the new coaching staff are awesome," said sophomore wide receiver Ivan McCartney. "They allow us to be ourselves. They bring the fun back in football for us, and that's what we needed here."

So, why has it changed so drastically?

Can it be as simple as a new coach? Can a single guy change a culture?

The quick answer is yes – and a thousand times yes.

The other aspect of confidence comes from a simple motivating factor: that the team did underachieve in 2010 – something the senior leaders are not afraid to admit.

"We felt like we shorted ourselves as a team last year. As good of a team as we had, we definitely could've done better," Miller said. "I think us players know the players we have coming back and the potential that we have going into the season. That's hyped us out as a team for camp and this season."

The change has been shown in expectations, as well. It's no longer a Big East title or bust. West Virginia is now a program that sets its standards on the national stage.

After all, it was a mere four years ago that the Mountaineers were a game away from playing for the national title.

For these players, there are just 12 games away from getting there.

And that's how West Virginia's football team will think under Holgorsen.

"We really have to prove it now to ourselves, not to anyone else," said junior receiver Tavon Austin. "If we come out and do our part, we're going to go out and win."

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