Uncertain future ahead for WVU offense
Published: Monday, January 14, 2013
Updated: Monday, January 14, 2013 00:01
When the West Virginia football team exited the field following its 38-14 loss to Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, it marked the end of the careers of 21 Mountaineer seniors.
The three most notable names on that list were senior quarterback Geno Smith, inside receiver Tavon Austin and redshirt junior receiver Stedman Bailey.
Throughout their time in Morgantown, the electrifying trio of playmakers rewrote the WVU record books, setting nearly every single-season and career record possible in their respective positions.
While many wonder what’s next to come for the three players as they prepare to move on to the next level and prepare for successful careers in the NFL, the Mountaineer coaching staff is left with the daunting task of replacing three of the most productive players in school history.
"You have competitions, and the best people get to play," said WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. "That question has been asked numerous times through all of our careers; this isn’t the first time we’ve had a great quarterback and lost him. There have been a lot of receivers in this offense that are still playing in the NFL.
"Those schools had to move on at some point, and guess what happens when they move on? Someone else has to step up and become a playmaker."
Now, the question turns to who will take the reins of the Mountaineer offense in a season.
At quarterback, head coach Dana Holgorsen can turn to two-year backup Paul Millard or freshman Ford Childress after WVU also loses its top three pass catchers.
"We’ve got a couple of young guys who appear to have what it takes," Smith said. "But it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication and effort.
"I’m anxious to see it just as much as you all are."
It was that hard work and dedication Dawson said made Smith, Bailey and Austin stand out and excel the way they did in their Mountaineer careers.
"They didn’t have any prima donna or that ‘I’m not going to work hard today’ type of attitude. If our younger guys can grab hold of that, they’ll be fine," Dawson said.
But in order to carry themselves as playmakers, they will have to actually go out and make the plays. That’s where the major attitude adjustment will have to come for a lot of the young Mountaineers in 2013.
"We’ve got some younger guys, unfortunately, who think they’ve caught 100 balls a year," Dawson said. "I have to keep reminding them that they’ve caught two and to quit acting like that. (Next year), there’s going to be a reality that sets in."
Bailey is confident inexperienced receivers like K.J. Myers, Devonte Mathis and Devonte Robinson – among a few others – can step up and fill the void left by Austin and himself.
"It’s a big void to fill, but we’ve got some good guys behind us that got a chance to sit out and learn from me and Tavon," he said. "Everybody has to come out and prove that you can be a playmaker in this offense.
"I figured out early on in that first year with Coach Holgorsen that it could be a pretty good deal for me. This is a pass-happy offense, and if you have a great quarterback and some great teammates around you, like I have with Tavon, you can make some great things happen."