MORGANTOWN — It’s nice to be rough and tough when it comes to defensive football, but a little religion never hurts, either.
At least not the kind that West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson had with his group on Tuesday.
“On Monday I was disappointed in our defense. I didn’t think our linebackers were playing physical. So I had a little ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting and yesterday those guys were much better,” Gibson explained.
For those of you who don’t read between the football lines, a “Come to Jesus” meeting can be interpreted in a lot of ways, but mostly it’s used to raise a team or a player from the dead and Gibson felt his team was dead in what it was trying to accomplish at practice, so he went about playing the Elmer Gantry role in letting them know they weren’t heading for football heaven the way they played.
Sometimes such a meeting is strictly for the players, but sometimes it is for the coach, too, who has to get something off his chest.
In this case, Gibson said, it was for both sides.
“It’s for both of us. I tell the guys all the time when I’m yelling, I’m talking to you and I’m talking to myself, too. Obviously, you didn’t understand what I wanted, so I’ll take that on me,” he said.
“But they have to learn to play physical all the time. We don’t want our linebackers playing passive. We want them to stop the run. With the defense we’re in, with three up front, we don’t want vertical seams in the defense.
“When that happens, we have to be the guys playing downhill and we weren’t doing that. I mean, the offense was running on us. I don’t care if we’re giving up passing yards, but we’re not going to let people run the ball on us.”
And that was his point in this meeting, a point well made, by the way.
Things were much better on Tuesday.
“(Middle linebacker) Nick Kwiatkoski probably had his best practice in the two years since I’ve been back here. He was doing some good things flying around. Edward Muldrow was doing some good things. Wes Tonkery, probably from Day 1 to now, has had the best camp of anyone. He’s come along well,” Gibson said.
And things might be better if Brandon Golson was playing, who was No. 2 nationally in forced fumbles last season, but who is recovering from injury.
One addition to the defense that should have a huge impact on the pass rush in that of Shaquille Riddick out of Gardner-Webb.
At 6-foot-6 and 244 pounds, he’s a beast, but a very athletic one who Gibson says isn’t just a pass rusher at defensive end.
“He can be an every down player. He’s not just a third down player. He plays the run well,” Gibson said. “A lot of people think leverage is an issue with him, but he plays with his pads down. He’s getting it. We’re five days in and I’m really happy with him.”
Gibson was asked to compare him to Bruce Irvin, who was a first round draft pick a couple of years back and played for Seattle in the Super Bowl.
“It’s just so hard to compare that. Bruce was a first-round guy and is 6-2. Riddick is 6-6. I’d think more of a comparison would be a Will Clarke or Julian Miller type. Riddick can run, though. He probably runs a 4.5.”
And there is one comparison Gibson will make with Irvin.
“I compare him to Bruce in the way he understands what to do and how to get after the quarterback when the ball is snapped.”
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The biggest problem the Mountaineers are facing right now is that they are looking for a third offensive tackle to go with starters Marquis Lucas on the right side and Adam Pankey on the left.
That’s not bad, considering last year.
“Last year, we were looking for a first and second guy. We’re pretty solid with our first line guys. We just have to get the next guys,” quarterback Clint Trickett said.
The candidates are Marcell Lazard, Sylvester Townes and veteran Michael Calicchio.
“Marcell Lazard and Sylvester Townes are younger guys who need reps. We’re really looking for the third tackle right now,’’ coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We’ve got our two starters. They need to continue to get better and hopefully they can hold out. Neither one of those guys has been counted on to play a full game, but I think they’re ready. I know they’re ready. We just need a third tackle in case something happens.’’
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Registration is still open for the Mountaineer Athletic Club’s (MAC) third annual Football 101 for Women, to be held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 17 at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Participants at this year’s clinic will have the opportunity to meet Mountaineer coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff. Additionally, they will receive a tutorial on football schemes from the coaches and take the field for instructional sessions with the WVU football players.
Dinner and a live auction, emceed by Mountaineer play-by-play announcer Tony Caridi, will follow the on-field program. Additionally, attendees will be granted special access to the Mountaineers’ practice from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday.
The cost of admission is $50 for current MAC members and $150 for non-members (includes your Buckskin MAC membership). Admission is free for Women Supporting Athletics (WSA) members.
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Former WVU offensive lineman Don Barclay, who has become an integral part of the Green Bay Packers line and has been considered “a sixth starter” by Coach Mike McCarthy, suffered a torn ACL in practice Tuesday and probably will undergo surgery shortly.
After starting all 14 games at right tackle for the Packers last season in place of an injured Bryan Bulaga, he was positioned to be the primary backup at both guard spots and right tackle.
Barclay’s wife, Brea, offered the following post on Facebook with a picture of herself, Don and their recently born child:
“Just want to say thank you to each and every one of you that reached out to us the past few days....the support is unbelievable and means the world to us! Although it’s been rough, we are beyond blessed with all we have and know that it’s in God’s hands! Keep the prayers coming! He’ll be back in no time! Just hope we don’t kill each other these next few months we love you @barclay_67.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel