Changes On Tap As Gibson, WVU Defense Look for Better End To Season
ORLANDO, Fla. — West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson admitted to being a bit grumpy following West Virginia’s final two regular season games, but it wasn’t a matter of him being upset with the effort that his squad put forth against two of the top offenses in the country. Instead, it was his general reaction to being unable to find a way to win a couple more defensive possessions — which would have likely given the Mountaineers wins — and is desire to put his players in the best position to win.
His players noticed it too, as he channeled all of his efforts into making modifications that will allow his still-hobbled defense to have its best chance to make plays against a Syracuse team that is bringing back memories of the high-powered offenses of the late 1980s.
“I hate the way the last two games went, so I don’t want these guys to go out like that, especially this senior class that’s been through so much like Dravon (Askew-Henry). He’s been around for a long time, and we owe it to him and these other seniors, Zeke (Ezekiel Rose), Toyous (Avery Jr.), and guys that have put the work in. We owe it to them to go out with a win, No. 1, but we need to be able to play better and do some things better on defense.
A team that is better rested, but still missing Dylan Tonkery, could be the foundation of improved performance, but Gibson isn’t banking on just that. He’s also been tinkering and making a few changes since the final game of the regular season, and although he obviously won’t reveal what those modifications are, he isn’t afraid to send the signal to the Orange that some changes are afoot.
“It’s more schematically than anything else. We’re just going to try to do a few different things and just change it up a little bit,” he generalized. “And we’ve had a lot of time to prepare for it, so we’ve had a lot of time as a staff, and a lot of time with the kids, of studying the film and thinking what would give us the best opportunity to win the game.”
In past years, making big changes between the end of the regular season and the bowl game wasn’t a common occurrence. However, several factors, including more in-season development for youngsters (which was previously pushed to the postseason), means that every practice since the finale can be geared to the starters, and whatever changes are to be made.
“We’ve had – I don’t even know at this point – probably seven, eight practices,” Gibson said. “We’ll get a couple more in before game time, so I think that’s plenty of time. You don’t want to wear them out because you want this to be a fun opportunity for the kids and give them a learning experience. I think our staff has done a great job with teaching. Now, let’s put it all on paper and see what happens.”