Gibson Won’t Use Injuries As Excuse, But They Are A Factor

Gibson Won’t Use Injuries As Excuse, But They Are A Factor

WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson never uses injuries as an excuse for less-than-optimal play from his team. The phrase “next man up” might well be tattooed across his chest. That’s admirable, as it shows not only his refusal to blame factors outside his control for poor play, but also develops a positive mentality among his players. If the coach believes that whoever he puts in is going to get the job done, then those players should too, right?

The same mantra can be heard from players whenever the injury factor or shuttle of bodies from sideline to field, and position to position, is mentioned. It’s clear they hear it, and believe it. That’s the result of good coaching, and shows buy-in by the players.

At some point, though, the reality of the situation intrudes. People in any job are going to improve if they do the same task over and over, in the same situation, and with the same team members filling the same roles around them. That’s the importance of practice, of “reps” — the coaching shorthand for repetitions. Those that don’t have the benefit of that time usually aren’t going to be as effective. How many times have we heard a player assessed as having talent, but just needing reps to blossom into productivity? It’s true, and for players without that experience, who are being shuffled around and seeing new faces around them, it is a factor, whether acknowledged or not.

West Virginia cornerback Josh Norwood (4) commits a facemask penalty

For West Virginia, which has shuffled more people through its defense this summer and fall than the West Virginia Supreme Court, it finally caught up with them against Iowa State. And Gibson, who has seen injuries both catastrophic and nagging throughout his career as WVU’s defensive coordinator, finally admitted, at least a little, that it has an effect.

“When you start losing guys, it’s just kind of the story of our defense over the last few years. We just can’t keep guys healthy,” he said matter-of-factly, while continuing to pepper his post-game comments with the no-excuses phrase. However, he also thought a different mindset might have crept in after an early success.

“We played four snaps and we were rolling, scored, and I don’t know if they thought it was going to be easy,” Gibson said of his team, which got a first-quarter interception from spur Dravon Askew-Henry to set up its only offensive score of the night. “They made some plays, and then I thought we settled in. I thought we hung in there.”

Gibson’s defense, already hampered with the absence of linebacker Dylan Tonkery, who dressed but did not play, was also smacked with in-game losses of lineman Jabril Robinson and bandit Derrek Pitts. Both were injured and did not return — Pitts having to be taken from the field on a cart. That’s one stalwart on each level of the Mountaineer defense, and coupled with other losses that have piled up since the off-season, it was just too much to overcome.

“I thought early on we did a poor job of tackling [David Montgomery] ,” Gibson said of the Cyclones’ feature back, who ran for 189 yards on 29 carries. “He didn’t play last week and he probably had fresh legs. But he’s a great back and makes you miss.”

Head coaching Dana Holgorsen agreed, noting Montgomery “makes them a different team”.

Outmanned, worn down by a minus 30 differential in total plays, West Virginia’s defense continued to battle, but wasn’t anywhere near the efficiency it had shown earlier in the year. It managed just five tackles for loss and zero sacks.

“I thought we fought and didn’t quit.  But I am not proud of how we executed,” Gibson analyzed. “We didn’t tackle and didn’t get pressure on the quarterback.”

While acknowledging that there is work to be done to correct errors, Gibson also hit at the heart of the biggest problem facing the Mountaineer defense.

“The first thing is we have to get healthy bodies out there. I am not using that as an excuse, but it is what it is.”

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    Gibson Won’t Use Injuries As Excuse, But They Are A Factor WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson never uses injuries as an excuse for less-than-optima
    [See the full post at: Gibson Won’t Use Injuries As Excuse, But They Are A Factor]


    Hard to evaluate the defense when the offense kept putting them back out on the field after 4 or 5 plays. Defense wasn’t great, but if the offense had done anything to help out the defense wouldn’t have gotten worn down so much.


    Agree with this. WVU didn’t play great on defense, especially in tackling. It blew several coverages that led to open receivers. But overall, it was probably good enough to win the game had the offense played anywhere close to recent levels.


    Injuries are just an excuse……. There will always be injuries. Always. Problem with the D is that we just don’t have the bodies to back fill when there is an injury. We are playing guys that just aren’t ready. Having to move multiple guys out of their positions to fill slots. We just don’t have kids that are ready to step up. They just don’t have time to develop.

    This all comes down to recruiting. First of all we lost way too many kids in the last couple years that transferred out with time left to play. We started the summer with about 10 empty slots. 10 (maybe more) under the 85 allowed schollies. We could have used a couple more LB’s, and DB’s and a few OL with those 10 unused scholarships. Or were we saving them for deserving walk ons? We just didn’t fill all of our slots and it snowballed.

    Next is that we just don’t (or can’t) recruit kids that are ready to step in and fill positions as injuries occur. Our recruiting classes have been ranked in the 35 to 45 range for most years. We rarely get a 5* player and only a couple 4* players every year. Most of our recruits have been in the mid to low 3* range. That doesn’t bode well when you need to play kids early. Kids that need time to develop. You can’t give kids time to develop when you aren’t filling the full 85 man limit every year.


    Totally disagree. Take the argument to the extreme. If every single starter is hurt, is that still an excuse? WVU’s defense has been decimated by injuries over the past few years. They’ve hit their best players: Karl Joseph, Dravon, David Long, the list goes on and on. No one outside of the top five or six teams in the country could weather that, and even then their productivity diminishes.

    Against ISU, WVU played without Brendan Ferns, Quondarius Qualls, Charlie Benton and Dylan Tonkery. That’s four of the top five LBs that would have started or been major participants this year. If you want to label that an excuse, then we can have a semantics argument, but it’s also a fact. If you think that the backups going into the three-deep should be just as good as the starters, again, we can have that debate.

    One or two injuries are to be expected. The number that WVU has had this year, and over the past 2-3 years, has been near catastrophic.

    As for recruiting, you can’t take more than 25 newcomers in a year, no matter how much you want to.


    See my rant about recruiting on another tread.
    25/year can give you 125 players if they all take a RS year as most FR do but we know that this doesn’t happen and we’re only allowed 85 total.
    Good Old Bill’s number of 17 recruits / year would give you that 85 number if you kept them all for 5 years. Granted, we can’t keep every recruit, but we should be able to keep an average of 17 per class for the 5 years eligible.
    Our numbers are staggeringly low. Ollie was rightfully concerned about the numbers when he replaced Bill. It took Holgs almost 5 years to get the numbers back to a full 85. In a few quick years Holgs has fallen into the Bill syndrome of not being able to keep kids and not able to back fill as needed. That is some of the problem. If we had that extra year or so to develop some of these kids we wouldn’t be playing 2nd and 3rd stringers that are getting their asses whipped on the field. They would have more time under their belt to develop skills. May not be the quality you need as starters, but at least competitive on the field.


    We seem to have a high rate of injuries for several years now. Has anyone looked into this on why it is so? Does it have to do with poor execution? Poor strength coaching and training? Are we just unlucky?

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