WVU leaning on experience during offseason

Championships are usually won down the stretch of the season during the months of November and December. But they can be lost in the offseason.

As West Virginia gets into the heart of the offseason this summer, that's been a clear message as it has tried to soldier on and fight through the summer workouts to make sure they're properly prepared for when training camp begins in August.

Following another season that ended in disappointment thanks in part to breakdowns at the end of the year, the messages and themes pushing the team through their workouts tends to be the same. Some words that came to mind from some of the veteran members of the team include "redemption," and "finishing." On the surface, it sounds no different than what has been said the last few seasons after WVU continually limped to the finish line of the season each of the last three years since it joined the Big 12 Conference.

The Mountaineers lost four of their final five games after the calendar turned to November in 2014, giving them a 4-11 record in November and December in the three years that they have been members of the Big 12.

But as West Virginia heads into the offseason in preparation for 2015, there is one thing that gives them more hope than usual that those messages that are being preached will finally sink in. This year there are more upperclassmen than ever before in the Holgorsen era at WVU, something that the group is hoping can help propel them over the top and toward the success they believe they can achieve.

"It all makes sense to these guys a lot more," Holgorsen said. "We're going into the second year defensively and the fifth year offensively, so we've got a lot of guys who have heard the same stuff here for the last two to five years. So that does put us ahead (of where we were in the past), we're not starting over."

Of the 94 players currently listed on the roster, West Virginia has 44 players who are either juniors or seniors - with the majority of them having played a lot of snaps throughout their careers.

That amount of experience on the field has bled over into the film and weight rooms at the Milan Puskar Center, as all of those leaders are able to take the younger players under their wings and teach them the right ways to go about things based on what they have done correctly, or what they have struggled with at times, during their up-and-down times at WVU.

"We're ahead right now, as a team," said senior cornerback Terrell Chestnut. "We've had chances to go back and look at the things we didn't do so well ... This is a learning time where we can look back and ask, 'What could you have done differently?' Right now we can really work on our communications and our progressions because sometimes, specifically against TCU, everyone wasn't on the same page.

"Right now we're just working on making sure everyone knows what they're doing so we can put us in a better situation to win games.

For a lot of these players, it's their last shot to do something special in a West Virginia uniform - something that is pushing them forward this offseason. They don't want to go down doing the same things they have done in the past.

"We felt like we left a few games out there. Our strength coach Mike Joseph was telling us the other day down there, 'One or two plays, we win 10 games. Two or three plays, we could have lost two more games,'" said senior offensive lineman Marquis Lucas. "That's how it goes. We want that redemption this year."


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