New coaches, offense boosts WVU’s attitude
Published: Thursday, April 28, 2011
Updated: Thursday, April 28, 2011 00:04
When West Virginia opened practice a month ago, many of the players were intrigued about how this spring would turn out.
After an offseason of turmoil, which included the departure of the entire offensive coaching staff and Dana Holgorsen's arrival, the roster was filled with skeptics.
"I was interested to see what this new offense had to offer. I heard when he was at Oklahoma State, he did a lot of big things," said sophomore wide receiver Stedman Bailey, who met Holgorsen in January when the coach was on a recruiting trip in Florida.
WVU's players were among the last to learn that head coach Bill Stewart signed a contract in November that stated he would step down either following the end of the 2010 season or stay on through 2011. Most of the players learned Holgorsen would be the team's head coach-in-waiting when the fans did just days before the Mountaineers played in the Champs Sports Bowl.
"I asked God, ‘What am I going to do? Am I going to play?'" said fullback Matt Lindamood.
Then-tight end Tyler Urban said: "I watched (Oklahoma State's) bowl game as soon as I got home from our bowl game, and I looked at their roster and saw nobody within 30 pounds of me in the position I'm playing."
When Holgorsen came in, he did so with statistics that backed up his hiring.
Since 2002, the offense Holgorsen was involved with, whether it was Texas Tech, Houston or Oklahoma State, finished 10th or better in passing total and scoring, all but once (13th in scoring offense in 2006).
In addition, since 2002 when the offense really started to click at Texas Tech under former head coach Mike Leach, Holgorsen's teams have finished first in passing, total or scoring offense nine times. They have finished in the top 5 a total of 20 times.
Those numbers are what helped speed up the transition, Holgorsen admitted.
"It's easier when they look at Oklahoma State tape, and it looks good," he said earlier this year. "If they want that to be them, then they probably should buy in and try to get good at it. It's not just going to happen. They've got to give effort and work at it. It's a hard game."
WVU junior quarterback Geno Smith, who has participated in his first spring after dealing with offseason injuries and surgeries that limited him in 2010, has led the offense through the change.
"I'm excited, and I look forward to the future," Smith said. "We're going to progress through the summer and hopefully be at top shape come the fall."
It hasn't been a necessarily easy spring for the offense. At times, their offensive line has struggled to stop the Mountaineers' defense and hasn't been able to develop depth at many positions due to spring injuries.
Still, the players are beginning to see the potential that this offense has shown under Holgorsen in the past.
"(The coaches) bring in that energy that makes you want to get better, that makes you want to work harder. And, it's fun while we're doing that," said wide receiver Brad Starks earlier this spring. "I'm excited. There are endless opportunities and possibilities with this offense."
The atmosphere this spring has been different, too, as many players have admitted.
There have been more competitive scuffles, a few more smiles and laughs during the higher-tempo practices.
The biggest key, Bailey admitted, is that the team is having more fun.
"The ball is going to be thrown around a lot, so it's going to be fun," he said. "That's the whole key to playing football, to go out and have fun and enjoy it. We all want to win, so as long as we go out there and make plays, you'll see a smile on my face."
Players consider Holgorsen to be a laid back coach. This spring, he's shown he would rather instruct in the film room rather than over-coach on the sidelines at practice. As the spring progressed, though, he became more vocally disappointed during practice.
"Coach Holgorsen is a loose guy, and he wants his players to be loose out there. It's a fun offense to run, so they're excited. We have to match their enthusiasm so we don't get embarrassed out here," said sophomore linebacker Doug Rigg.
The defense has even seen the differences on the offensive side of the ball.
"We're a little bit further ahead of where we were at this time last year," said defensive lineman Julian Miller. "If I was playing offense, I'd be revved up and excited about this system. As a team, this is something new, and as a team we're feeling that the sky's the limit."
Cornerback Pat Miller has enjoyed working against Holgorsen's new offense.
"This new offense is going to be the best thing for our defense," he said. "What we're seeing this spring, a lot of teams never see."