Much Needed Break

On the whole, football coaches are notorious for being control freaks. But WVU safeties coach Steve Dunlap said the fact that NCAA rules keep his eyes (and those of his colleagues) off the work that players do on the field in the summer isn't necessarily a bad thing.

With the first day of player-organized 7-on-7 drills coming and going Tuesday, you might think coaches like Dunlap were nervous about how well the veterans could go about teaching the newcomers; about what, exactly, would be the focus of the Mountaineers' time on the field.

You would be wrong.

"Coaches need a break," said Dunlap, frankly. "We just spent a month driving all over the east coast trying to recruit. It's a good thing, what we're doing."

"And (players) need a break from us too, sometimes, you know? It's good to let those leaders develop on their own out there, and I think that's what's happening."

Instead of being hands-on as he will be once fall camp starts in August, Dunlap and the rest of the West Virginia coaching staff will instead leave things in the hands of their players and the team's strength and conditioning staff.

Under the purview of Mike Joseph, the program's strength coach, Dunlap said players will accomplish what needs to be done to make the kind of progress the coaches are looking for between now and the start of the season.

"Of all the strength coaches I've been around, Coach Joseph is probably the most tuned-in," he said.

"From an injured player and what he needs to do to get better, because he works with (head trainer) Dave Kerns; as well as the coaches, knowing what each position takes and what they need to do to be successful. The big thing is explosive strength -- and flexibility. It keeps these kids from getting hurt."

And while the veteran players will be tasked with getting to yet another level of physical and mental preparedness over the summer, a flock of newcomers will be focused on just keeping their heads about water as they try to adapt to life as a college football player and a college student.

They will need the help of some of the older players to do so, in what Dunlap said is an important bonding experience.

"First of all, (newcomers) can try to survive the summer," said the veteran Mountaineer assistant, when asked what the biggest key was for those freshmen who hope to compete for playing time this fall.

"When they all get here, there's going to be a little bit of a shock. They've got 22-year-old men that have been out here doing this for four years, so it's going to be more than just a change of scenery for them."

"But it's what Coach (Bill) Stewart has said in the past -- it's leadership. We have good leadership from our experienced players, our juniors and seniors. A guy like Sidney Glover that's been around and knows what's going on can help those young guys get a good start."

Indeed, while the focus of the summer for most players is on better learning the Xs-and-Os while adding a few pounds of muscle, freshmen might be better served keeping their attention on more simple goals, according to Dunlap.

"I think the nice thing about being a freshman here in the summer is they're not pressed for time," he said. "They can get acclimated to college life and really get comfortable with their new settings and surroundings and not be rushed. So I think it's a great thing that the NCAA lets these kids come in early and get acclimated to college life."


When Dunlap mentioned being out on the road recruiting for much of the last month, the question was posed to him: how much are potential players asking about the turmoil surrounding possible conference realignment?

Said Dunlap: "It's mostly football (they talk about). I don't think players think they have a lot of control over what goes on, nor do assistant coaches. You know just as much as I know. So when we all find out, we'll all find out together what's going to happen."

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