WVU offense having fun again
Published: Sunday, April 3, 2011
Updated: Sunday, April 3, 2011 23:04
It has been all smiles and laughs at West Virginia football practice this season.
And there's a reason – the Mountaineers are having fun again.
Spring practice isn't any easier than in past years; in fact, the up-tempo nature of the new offense brought in by coordinator Dana Holgorsen may make it even more taxing.
It seems the players have really bought into the system and the new coaching staff. As a whole, this program has an outlook it hasn't had since 2007.
"We're having a lot more fun out there," said senior wide receiver Brad Starks. "The whole vibe around this offense is exciting. We're all ready to go out and make plays."
When you look at Holgorsen's success over the last 11 years, it's hard not to smile as fans, I'm sure. The same can be said of the players.
Holgorsen's offense puts up numbers that many teams can only dream of having.
Since 2002, the offense he 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 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 whopping 20 times.
To compare, WVU had just six top-5 finishes in rushing, total and scoring offense in that span – a time, specifically during Rich Rodriguez's glory days, when Mountaineer offense was considered to be one of the best in the nation.
Everywhere Holgorsen has been, he's made an offense better. Prior to Leach and him moving to Texas Tech, the Red Raiders weren't considered an offensive stalwart.
In his last two stops, the changes and results were shown immediately.
In 2007, prior to Holgorsen moving to Houston, the Cougars were 25th in passing and 23rd in scoring offense. In Year 1, Holgorsen improved that to second and 10th. In Year 2, he led the country in passing, total and scoring offense.
Prior to coming to Oklahoma State in 2010, the Cowboys were 99th in passing, 70th in total and 56th in scoring offense. That improved to second, third and third in 2010 – his lone year at the school.
"When you see the effectiveness from the last 11 years of how many yards have been put up, it makes the coaches look like geniuses," said WVU junior quarterback Geno Smith. "We're doing things that we shouldn't be doing at this point of installing a new offense."
Holgorsen's system is predicated on allowing athletes to show off their talents. It's less about thinking and more about reacting naturally.
No longer will Smith head to the line of scrimmage, survey a defense and make changes on nearly every other play.
"With the last offensive staff, we had so much on our plates with reads that practice was slower. Now, it's just going out and playing," Smith said. "With (old offensive coordinator Jeff) Mullen's offense, it was more of a pro-style attack. I think now we're just fun-and-gun."
So far, Smith said he can see some distinct differences in Holgorsen's offense from Mullen's scheme. The offense is predicated on using a quick tempo with less reads at the line of scrimmage. There are little-to-no read-option plays in the offense, as well. In addition, WVU's offense practices more as a team and less as individual units, Smith said.
It won't be the same exact offense he ran at Oklahoma State, or Houston or Texas Tech. There will be wrinkles added to account for players like tight end converted
inside receiver Tyler Urban and a slew of bigger running backs like Ryan Clarke and Shawne Alston.
"That's just coaching. If you're not trying to find new ways to do things, then you're probably going backwards," Holgorsen said. "We've done that every year, whether it was new stops or year two or year three or year eight at the same stop, to try to figure out better ways to do things year in and year out."
In every year, every single year, in fact, those changes have led to Holgorsen leading or being part of one of the most volatile offenses in the country.
And, that's something that should and does excite all of Mountaineer Nation.
"(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," Starks said. "I'm excited. There's endless opportunities and possibilities with this offense."