WVU football: Holgorsen's arrival happened at just right time for Hargrett
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The arrival of Dana Holgorsen's air-first designs have West Virginia football followers pretty much prepared to forget what they've seen in Mountaineer offenses past.
This is where redshirt sophomore Daquan Hargrett - somewhat appropriately - bursts into the picture.
"Somebody has to run the ball," Hargrett said after WVU's practice Friday.
Maybe it will be the 5-foot-6, 187-pound Hargrett who emerges from a deeper running back bunch than recent WVU teams have had. He's opening new and old eyeballs in spring drills with his speed, balance, power, elusiveness ... and unassuming nature.
The hiring of Holgorsen as the Mountaineers' offensive coordinator and coach-to-be couldn't have come at a better time for Hargrett, who pretty much would like to erase his collegiate football past, too.
Entering last season, the Miamian was listed No. 2 on the depth chart at running back behind Noel Devine. By season's end, Hargrett was buried. He finished WVU's 9-4 campaign playing in 10 games with only three carries for 14 yards.
On the 2011 spring depth chart at the A and B back spots - as Holgorsen labels the somewhat interchangeable spots - Hargrett isn't among five players named.
When the post-spring two-deep is done in three weeks, Hargrett will likely be there.
"Bringing in the new (offensive) coaches is one of my favorite things," Hargrett said. "I would have loved to show the other coaches that I could do it, but bringing in new coaches, everyone starts from scratch.
"It's like coming in here from high school, just proving myself, as if they recruited me, and I just go out and play where I think I should have been, the way I played in high school."
You stand and talk to Hargrett and you think of Devine - the height, the straight-forward answers, their roots in Florida high school football. Devine ran for 4,315 career yards. Hargrett doesn't want to be thought of under the "what might have been" category.
He admits that his lack of height is an issue in one facet Holgorsen demands from his backs, that they consistently block charging defensive ends (like WVU's Bruce Irvin in drills) to allow the pass game to flourish.
"That is one of my weaknesses," the running back said.
Hargrett says there's a counter play to that sizable thought, too.
"This offense is better for a guy my size," he said. "The spread ... a quick, a short guy can hide behind the big line and get a step or two (on a run play) and set up zones to get the defense blocked and help the offense find a seam."
Holgorsen seems satisfied to date. He said Saturday that Hargrett "has been consistent, but I don't even know if he can talk. He doesn't ever say anything. You ask him a question and he (nods his head). But he's been steady; he's been consistent.''
Last season, Hargrett might as well have been in a witness protection program, mired behind Devine, Shawne Alston and even true freshman Trey Johnson. Fullbacks Ryan Clarke, Matt Lindamood and Ricky Kovatch were getting more time than Hargrett.
Then, the talk began that slot receiver Tavon Austin would be returning to running back - his old Baltimore high school position - to get him more touches once Devine graduated.
More good news from Holgorsen for Hargrett: "We're not going to have anybody playing two positions," the next WVU coach said last week. "I don't even want anybody playing both inside and outside receiver."
It also doesn't hurt that Hargrett has good hands to catch those increased passes WVU will be putting up, and because he's stronger, a past tendency to slip when cutting has been replaced by an increased balance and awareness of defender angles.
"When they talked last year about Tavon moving to running back, I didn't let it bother me," Hargrett said. "I was going to compete; even if Noel could have come back for a fifth year, I was going to compete. Nothing is going to be given here; I don't expect anything to be given.
"Last year was pretty frustrating for me, but it was a learning experience and it just made me more hungry, and made me want to come out this spring and do extra. What I'm showing now, I wanted to be able to show I could do that last season.
"I never was close to leaving here. It wasn't an option. But when you're not playing, you're frustrated and all kinds of things run through your mind. I just felt if I continued to work hard and continued to grind, do everything right, I was going to get my chance.
"I feel like I'm getting a fair shot now, which is all you can ask, and I'm going to take advantage of it."
He also praises new WVU running backs coach Robert Gillespie for his ability to teach the same things in different ways "because he talks to you and knows how to relate, and he understands that each player he coaches is different."
Hargrett grasps the irony that a well-grounded program that has had 17 1,000-yard rushing seasons since 1992 will now suddenly be known for the pass. In the last 15 seasons, WVU's top six rushers (five running backs and QB Pat White) combined for 24,576 ground yards.
The two backs Hargrett intensely followed ran for 8,238 of those.
"There's no other Noel Devine and there's no other Steve Slaton," Hargrett said, "but back in high school, I watched them on TV, first Steve, then Noel. Watching Noel in my freshman and sophomore years here, that just motivates you more.
"It makes you want to come here and say, 'I want to be that guy.' Not them, but that guy. It makes you want to fulfill that role. Slaton and Noel, they're two of the favorite backs here of all-time. It just makes you want get on that pedestal with them."
That was then. For Hargrett, Holgorsen's arrival is now.
Contact Sports Editor Jack Bogaczyk at email@example.com or 304-348-7949.