During the spring, Dews gradually immersed himself in the nuances of coaching wide receivers, doing a good bit of on the job training. Starting from almost scratch, Dews took on more and more responsibility with the wideouts, and by the end of spring was running many things on his own. Despite the obvious progress, the affable Dews is still working hard to add more knowledge.
"My next step is to really get in and study the film both from last year and from the spring," Dews related. "I really want to study our players, our receivers, and the things they did this spring. I will also be watching the cut-ups to learn our schemes to the best of my ability. I have to figure out how I need to adapt to help do what needs to be done and help each player. I need to know if there is anything I can do to help them get to the next level.
Dews also participated in the evaluation and improvement planning for his players, and shared some of the items that go into that process.
"One of the things we do in player evaluations is look at them in what we see as coaches -- what we see in practice every day. Then each coach thinks about each player and decides how he can improve. You put your ideas down, you share it with them, and tell them all the things they can do and improve on to help us win a championship next year."
While that process sounds straightforward, the complexity comes in when the different personalities, abilities and level of progress for each player is taken into account. So, rather than being a simple rote accounting of each player, there is also a good bit of customization to be done in devising the plan.
"Each player is different in what they need to work on," Dews explained. "The one common theme is that they all be as physically strong and in as good shape as they can be when they come back in the fall. But there are a lot of differences. One kid may have something he needs to work on mentally. Another may need to work on recognizing coverages. Everyone learns at different paces. Some kids just need to learn the offense – what the receiver is supposed to do. Some kids that already know that need to expand and learn what everyone is doing, not just himself."
Dews' has coached a number of different positions on the field, but has never held the title of wide receivers coach. However, at one previous stop, he did gain experience that helped him when he moved into that position at West Virginia.
"When I was at Central Michigan, I coached tight ends, and we played with a tight end that was kind of like a Tony Gonzalez, an Antonio Gates type," Dews explained. "We used him as a wide receiver maybe 50% of the time. Within that scheme, our tight end might be the #2 or #3 receiver. We split him out and he played in the slot a lot. So in learning route concepts and having to teach a player how to run them, whether he's in a two by two set or a three by one set – I've done that. At Western Michigan, I would say it was almost like having an inside receivers coach and an outside receivers coach. So I really think that helped prepare me for this opportunity."
Of course, Dews realizes that his learning is far from complete. While he did have that Western Michigan experience to fall back on, he still had a lot of things to learn that were exclusive to the receiver position, especially those pertaining to the outside positions.
"As far as learning individual techniques, some of the things I had to learn that I hadn't taught before were things like getting a release of the line vs. press coverages, corners playing a few yards off the ball to disrupt routes, and things like that. Those were things that were new to me. Maybe not new, but having to understand and learn the technique of it in detail. But in coaching on defense, I knew what those [offensive] guys were trying to do, so that helped me share my knowledge with our receivers, to let them know what the defense was trying to do to them."
Dews also has other resources he has called, and will continue to call upon, as he builds his base of knowledge.
"The greatest resource has been Coach Rodriguez. He built this thing and put it together over the course of 15 years. I don't think I could have had a better teacher than having the master himself to learn from. He made the transition smooth because he would run meetings and do the offensive installation, and I could just hang on his every word. And then with Coach Magee, it was good to listen to his point of view and talk with him.
"It was also helpful to call and talk to [fomrer WVU wide receivers coach] Butch Jones," he continued. "You call different people that coach the position, and find a lot of things out that way. When you get good friends, you have those resources to talk to and find out how to do something that maybe you have been struggling with."
All those learning tools, coupled with a healthy work ethic, bode well for Dews at his new position. He and his mostly young receiving group have the chance to grow together, and if they do so, West Virginia's already potent offense could become nearly unstoppable.