Spring Lessons

Spring football is a time for fundamental work, refinement and relearning of the basics for the players on the team, and that's also the case for new West Virginia assistant coach Dave McMichael.

Of course, the term "new" is a relative one for the veteran coach, who served for 17 years at West Virginia as the exterior offensive line coach, tutoring tackles and tight ends. He knows his way around the football complex, and is certainly familiar with many of the points of emphasis espoused by head coach Bill Stewart – many of which echo those of the pair's old boss, Don Nehlen. That has allowed McMichael something of a head start as he fits in with the new staff, but there are still some things that he has to learn.

First and foremost are the changes in terminology, which obviously vary from program to program. After nearly a decade at the University of Connecticut, the Huskies' terminology is burned into his consciousness, so he is now making the transition to West Virginia's verbiage.

"There are things that you are used to calling it one way, and now it's called another way, but I'll get that sorted out as we go along," the quick-responding McMichael said of his biggest personal challenge of the spring. "But it's fun to come in and learn some new things. You can change an old dog every once in a while."

With some veteran players at his position, including Tyler Urban and Will Johnson, McMichael also gets some help in the name game from that direction.

"The kids help keep you straight every once in a while. 'No coach, you call it this.' So that's good," he added with a laugh, obviously reflecting on the enjoyment a player gets in correcting a coach from time to time.

It doesn't figure to be long, however, before McMichael masters the terminology hurdle and is ready to put his own stamp on the tight end position. West Virginia wants to get the tight ends more involved in the offense this year (a seemingly annual goal since the turn of the century, when Anthony Becht snared 35 passes in 1999. Many of the top tight end receiving seasons came under McMichael, who deployed such receiving threats as Lovett Purnell (78 catches in two seasons) and Becht (64 catches in two years). In fact, of the top 16 single season performances by tight ends in WVU history, fully nine came on McMichael's watch.

Of course, the offensive style of West Virginia was much different during many of those seasons. Power I and pro sets dominated WVU's attack in those years, and when West Virginia became more diverse with Major Harris at the helm, tight end catches receded. Still, Becht's numbers followed that era, with a return to more passing and Marc Bulger at controls, so three is no doubt that McMichael knows how to work the tight ends within the offense.

With head coach Bill Stewart's spread the wealth philosophy, it's doubtful if WVU's tight ends will approach the numbers put up by Purnell, Becht or Mark Raugh, who holds the single-season tight end catch record of 64 passes. Still, McMichael sees promise in West Virginia's offensive scheme.

"They are doing some things a little bit differently with the spread offense and option wise," he noted. "I like it. That's been fun. A lot of these things I have been doing for umpteen years, so it has been good too. With the new things, I have enjoyed learning the philosophies."

If there is one thing that remains constant from McMichael's prior tenure at WVU, it's the tenet on which the program was built.

The one thing that has carried through about Mountaineer football is the work ethic," he said when asked about any similarities in the program from his first tenure. "These kids work hard and they get after each other. They know how to practice and that holds true now. They have that blue collar ethic. On film you see kids give great effort and execute. They were coached well here., and that's certainly carried over."

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