MORGANTOWN - In addition to learning pass routes, defensive schemes and other assorted plays, many of the veteran Mountaineers are learning how to be leaders on and off the football field.
That aspect of the team, said head coach Dana Holgorsen, started even before the first day of practice.
“We’ve talked a lot about that with our group,” he said Monday. “You can’t really find the definition of a leader on the team. It’s not the same every year. We need to develop leadership and develop the guys so we know who to count on.”
Holgorsen said the quarterback doesn’t necessarily have to be one of the team leaders. The three players competing for that job have even been taken out of the team’s leadership groups.
“They have other things to worry about,” the coach said. “They have to work on being better as a quarterback and being the starter.”
Holgorsen said every member of the Mountaineer squad has the opportunity and capability of taking a leadership role. He said it starts with leading by example.
“Leading yourself and doing things right on and off the field,” he said. “You have to get yourself in position to make plays as well. Then you can step up and make those plays.”
Senior wide receiver Ivan McCartney, who left the team midway through the season last year but returned to the roster in May, thinks he has the right stuff to be a leader among the inexperienced group of receivers, if not the entire team.
“With the things I have been through, I think it is the right thing for me to do — to bring the younger guys up the right way instead of taking the wrong way,” McCartney said. “Maturing is a big part of the game right now.”
Holgorsen said the Mountaineers suffered through leadership issues “in a bad way” during a 2012 season which saw West Virginia University start 5-0 and finish 7-6. He, however, would not expand on those issues.
“I’ve said it before that we do not want to focus on 2012,” Holgorsen said. “We have lessons that we can take from last year and use this year. There were examples of it throughout last year with a variety of people. We can take those lessons as things we do not want to happen this year.”
Senior defensive lineman Will Clarke said the team is following the adage of learning from history so it is not repeated.
“We have a moving-on attitude,” he said. “We learn from it, leave it in the past and build on that for this year.”
The focus needs to be on the 2013 season, said safety Karl Joseph, so that the Mountaineers can prove the naysayers wrong. WVU has been forecast to be at or near the bottom of the Big 12 Conference standings.
“We’ll just forget about last season,” Joseph said. “Last season doesn’t matter. What happened last year is done. We are just focusing on this season.”
The team describes itself as being hungry - not just for wins, championships and bowl bids, but also for positive leadership.
“We are ready for new leaders to emerge,” quarterback Paul Millard said. “It’s a whole new team out there.”