Assistant coaches pleased with balance, playmakers
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2012 00:09
In the first week of the season, West Virginia has shown it is not only committed to establishing the run game, but it is pretty darn good at it, too.
For only the second time in school history, the Mountaineers’ offense gained more than 300 yards passing and rushing in Saturday’s 69-34 defeat of Marshall.
Offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Shannon Dawson explained the coaching staff doesn’t set out with a strict plan of attack, but instead reacts to what the opposing defense puts in front of them.
"If you look at what we do, we want to take what the defense gives," he said. "We feel like if we can run the ball when they’re a weak box and throw the ball when they’re a heavy box, then that’s what we want.
"We don’t want to sit there and bang our heads against the wall. If we can get in the right play, and (senior quarterback) Geno (Smith) does a great job of that, then obviously we’ll be a better offense," he said.
Conventionally, balance in terms of an offensive scheme is described as equal parts rushing and passing. Dawson and West Virginia, however, define it differently.
"Basically when we watch film, it’s more of the fact of ‘Are we running it in the right situation?’ It could be 50-50 (passing-to-rushing) or it could be 80-20," he said.
"If a team comes out and they want to just take away the run, we might not run it at all. If they want to take away the pass and we need to run it 80 percent of the time, then (we will)," he said.
"That’s balance the way I look at it."
On top of the actual types of plays the Mountaineers run, Dawson said achieving balance also requires sharing the football among West Virginia’s offensive weapons.
"Balance is also getting the people equal touches," he said. "The more you can get the running back and every receiver touches, then the less (the defense) can sit there and focus on stopping one thing."
Running backs coach Robert Gillespie is no stranger to leading a rushing attack in a pass-heavy scheme. In 2009, during his first season as running backs coach at Oklahoma State, Gillespie’s unit rushed for more yards than any other school in the Big 12.
Gillespie said the balance West Virginia displayed Saturday helps make the offense more complete and alleviates pressure on Smith.
"We want to be a complete offense," he said. "We got better running the ball towards the middle of (last) season once guys got healthy.
"That’s something that we took to the offseason to the offensive line and the running backs and wanted to make sure that we could do a great job of making us a complete offense, and take some pressure off (Smith) and those guys off the perimeter; I think (Saturday) was the first step," he said.
Achieving that balance requires hitting the playmakers strewn across the Mountaineers’ offensive depth chart. Though Gillespie said the coaching staff knows who its primary playmakers are, other players still need to establish themselves as go-to guys.
"This year, we know who (senior wide receiver) Tavon Austin is as a staff. This year, we know who (senior running back) Shawne Alston is. He’s healthy," he said.
"We watched that tape (from last season) and, as a staff, we said, ‘Who is that team?’ because we didn’t know who our playmakers were."
"This year, we know who (redshirt junior wide receiver) Stedman Bailey is, we know how to get the ball to (Austin). So again, that’s the way we wanted to start the season – getting the ball to our playmakers."