Reset Week: WVU Players, Coaches Clear Heads For Regular Season Stretch Run
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia head coach Neal Brown established the message of a team reset during the 12-day break prior to the Baylor game, both as a way of putting the first seven games of the season, (not to mention a tough October) in the rear view mirror, and also to set the tone of self-improvement that he hopes will carry over into the final five contests of the regular season.
With those few extra days between games, there was also a bit more time for players and coaches to get away from football. Brown provided that opportunity by making fewer demands on time, making practices brisker and more focused while encouraging players to recharge.
For many, that meant stretches of simple unwinding.
“I’ll play video games, get out and hunt or fish,” said senior Dylan Tonkery. “Just get away a little bit and clear my head.”
The outdoors are a common destination for a number of players on the team, while others park themselves on a couch or recliner to rest their battered bodies with some favorite distractions.
“I just relax. I don’t do much – I just try to get my mind off [football],” sophomore defensive lineman Dante Stills detailed. “I might watch a movie or watch some NFL games.”
Offensive coordinator Matt Moore, like many coaches, finds refuge in family time.
“I just try to get a half-day with the family, go home and relax, and realize there’s a lot more to this than just playing and coaching football,” he said. “If I can get a half day with the family, that’s what I want to do. Just sit at the house and relax. No golf, or fishing, or anything like that.”
Even though everyone in the Puskar Center understands the need for a break, it can sometimes be difficult to square that away with the desire to get back on the field. WVU’s current three-game losing streak, one that isn’t harped upon but is obviously in the consciousness of all involved, plays into that motivation.
“There’s one side of me that wants to rest, but another side that wants to keep going,” said Stills, espousing the conflict that resides in most competitive athletes. “Sometimes your body needs a rest. If you keep banging and banging, your body gets worn down, gets tired and gets hurt. This week off has been important to us. For sure, I feel better.”
Even when taking in some NFL games as entertainment, Stills incorporates a bit of work.
“If it’s the Ravens or Chiefs, I might watch as a fan, but at the same time I watch [the defensive linemen] to see what I can do to help my game,” said Stills, referring to two of the teams his father, Gary Stills, played for during his 10-year NFL career (1999-2008). “I will watch to see how they work their hands and attack the offensive linemen.”
There are also a few players who didn’t use the few extra days to get away. That’s not to say that is the right approach for all, but for some, the head-clearing process can be found within the game. Among that smallish group was running back Leddie Brown.
“The coaches were saying this is the mid-way point of the season, so we are going to start over,” said Brown. “After practices I started to do some extra footwork drills and work on my game and get better.”