Following a 2012 season that ended in very disappointing fashion, Holgorsen went to work on a number of aspects of the program. The coaching staff was shuffled, with an eye toward improved recruiting. The defensive system was almost completely overhauled, while the offense spent much of the spring developing its running attack. Behind the scenes, Holgorsen pushed an educational program to indoctrinate the Mountaineers into the culture of West Virginia and WVU, and what it means to play for the state. And then he stepped aside, leaving much of the summer development in the hands of the strength and conditioning staff.
The third year head coach wasn't bailing out on WVU, of course. He, along with the other coaches, are limited by NCAA rules as to the amount of contact they can have with their players over the summer – rules that don't allow them to participate in or observe any conditioning or voluntary workouts. That doesn't mean that the coaching staff views it as inconsequential, though – in fact, it's just the opposite. So, they have to place their trust in Director of Strength and Conditioning Mike Joseph, along with his staff, to continue to develop the team through May, June and July.
When Joseph started out his career as a strength coach, he never dreamed that the summer work would be one of the most important periods of the year, or that his duties would extend far beyond overseeing lifting, stretching and running. However, as college football training has evolved into a year-round process, he's seen his duties expand.
"When I started out, I wanted to train athletes," Joseph said. "You love training and all the aspects of the science, and having the kids know that they are running faster and getting stronger. But as I've gotten more experience, I've realized how much more there is to it. You're developing the mental aspect, and you're also developing every concept and idea that the head coach wants, especially when the coaches can't be around. You're the point man, and with the help of all my assistants you have to carry that through the summer."
Joseph and Holgorsen met regularly to determine the goals of the summer workout program, and also to devise the steps necessary to carry on those revisions made in the spring. Joseph was then charged with that implementation, and it's up to him to deliver, if not the finished product, then one ready to take the next steps when camp opens in August.
"We need to develop the physical aspect, the mental and the team," he said, ticking off the priorities of the summer system. "We want to establish that from first day of the off-season through the start of camp. We're the point men – the ones that hold it together and help develop everything when the coaches can't be present. We have to make sure that when camp starts, we have every kid hitting on all cylinders: physically, mentally, making sure every kid is accountable. We have to make sure everyone is working toward winning a championship.
"When the coaches can't work with them or are around less due to recruiting, our number one goal is to make sure everything we developed over the winter is in place, and that they are ready to move to the next level," he continued. "We want higher work capacity, higher mentality, just improve everything."
The work Joseph and his staff do isn't limited to throwing weights around, doing box jumps or running through the sand pit. He's also following up on the lessons taught to the team through the spring semester on the history of West Virginia and WVU, and how that should tie in to their efforts.
"Every kid should be honored and proud to play for whoever and wherever they are," the West Virginia native said. "They have to take ownership and give everything they have for that team. I think Coach Holgorsen has done a great job, and we have done a great job, of trying to get the kids to understand what West Virginia means, what that 'WV' means, and when you put the gold and blue on what that stands for. Kids have learned that through the off-season. We've had people like Oliver Luck and Steve Dunlap and Dale Wolfley in to speak. They've educated the kids about the state, the culture, and the history of the state and the team. They've been allowed to understand the process, what has gone on before, and the standards they must uphold."
Some of that might seem to be a long way from the standard duties of a strength coach, but Joseph has seen the job evolve during his years at WVU, and he understands the importance of keeping everything, not just bench presses and 40-yard dash time, on an upward swing. As the leader of West Virginia's development during the summer months, he knows that his success level in that assignment will weigh heavily in the Mountaineers' readiness to hit the field in August.