Can you feel it? It's here. Today is the day. WVU Nation has waited almost three and a half months for it's unveiling.
Today, spring football practice begins for the Mountaineers and Dana Holgorsen will begin to install his new offense, one that will replace departed Jeff Mullen's (at times) anemic version. Holgorsen's offenses have been ranked near the top of the nation since he first became an offensive coordinator in 2005 at Texas Tech. By now, we all know Holgorsen's story. He was hired as Bill Stewart's eventual replacement as coach-in-waiting. I think I speak for everyone that that time can't come soon enough.
The official transition may be a year away, but it's time to start talking about the new Mountaineer offense that will begin it's debut today. A few weeks ago, the Mountaineers handed out a depth chart for its spring practices to the media. A few minutes later, the coaching staff told the group of reporters to ignore it. Why?
Holgorsen has claimed since he took the job that all offensive positions are up for grabs. That means that even Geno Smith's starting job is not technically safe (although Holgorsen expects Geno to start). Gone are leading rusher, Noel Devine, and the school's all-time leading receiver, Jock Sanders.
Initially, Bill Stewart anointed Tavon Austin as Devine's heir apparent. Austin, however, has stated that he'd rather stay at receiver and we all know that what Stewart says doesn't necessarily mean anything now (thank God). Holgorsen is installing a two RB system, as opposed to the one RB system we've known since Rich Rod took over. His QBs also normally complete passes to 6-10 different players per game. This up-tempo approach caused the Oklahoma State Cowboys to score 33 or more points 11 different times in his only season as their offensive coordinator. WVU, on the other hand, only accomplished that four times last season. It's a stark contrast, to say the least.
Geno Smith, the incumbent QB, had a great season last year in his first in the starting job. He threw for 2,763 yards (2nd in school history) and threw for 24 TDs opposed to only 7 INTs. Smith is already being mentioned as a dark horse Heisman candidate as people imagine what he'll do in the new offense. Freshmen Brian Athey and Paul Millard will be in the mix, but unless Geno stinks it up, they'll watch from the sideline for most of the season.
New WR coach, Shannon Dawson, says that the offense is primarily going to throw the ball around the yard and run it every now and then. Holgorsen's offenses have still produced 1,000 yard rushers almost every year. Holgorsen recruits RB's who have a knack for catching the ball out of the backfield. Returning are Shawn Alston, Ryan Clarke, Trey Johnson, and Matt Lindamood. The fall enrollees are Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison who are in the Tavon Austin mold: light and quick on their feet. The staff members recruit guys like that to motion them out of the backfield and line them up against and gain mismatches versus linebackers. Since Alston and Clarke had a combined 6 catches last season, I'm not sure if they fit exactly what it is Holgorsen will be looking for. My guess is that Buie will fit that description when the fall practices begin.
Dawson figures that they'll use 8 different receivers per game. The Mountaineers have only 7 receivers on the spring roster, but they'll add more in the fall. Tavon Austin should be the star of the group, but they'll also feature Ivan McCartney, J.D. Woods, Stedman Bailey, Bradley Starks. Coley White and early enrollee Vernard Roberts should get looks too. In the fall, they'll add Dante Campbell and KJ Myers to the mix. Dawson said that the No. 1 receiver will get 70% of the reps and the No. 2 receiver will get about 30%
Who is WVU's most likely No. 2 receiver? It's anyone's guess right now, though my early money is on Stedman Bailey.
Who do you think is going to step up?