WVU's Holgorsen will have a reunion of sorts in Big 12
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Dana Holgorsen is familiar with Big 12 country, having spent time under Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State and Mike Leach at Texas Tech.
As West Virginia's second-year coach, Holgorsen now gets to introduce the conference to the Mountaineers, who along with TCU will be making their debuts this fall.
In many ways, no introductions will be necessary. Big 12 coaches have crossed paths with Holgorsen and the Mountaineers before.
With several reunions in store, Holgorsen said Monday during the Big 12 coaches' spring conference call that there's a buzz among players and fans about the upcoming season.
"There's a whole bunch more than there was a year ago,'' Holgorsen said. "Our players have been in big games in the past. They understand what they're getting into without us having to beat them over the head with it.
"I think everybody understands what it is, how big of a challenge it's going to be and what we've got to do to prepare ourselves to be able to compete."
West Virginia officially joins the Big 12 in July. A three-month legal dispute ended in February with the Big East over the school's departure.
When asked about the recruiting process and trying to get a new message across about the Big 12 to players in the Northeast and in Pennsylvania, Holgorsen said it's different that pitching the idea of playing in the Big East.
"The one thing about the Big 12 which everybody understands is, it's a little bit more of a national scope,'' Holgorsen said. "Being in the Southwest and having the TV coverage, having the big-time BCS games that everybody's been to and playing for national championships which Texas and Oklahoma have done, it's a national scale. It goes from the West Coast to the East Coast.
"And a lot of people on the East Coast, because they're media savvy, they understand that. They're anxious about seeing games that are played on the West Coast. I'm not sure that exists in the Big East.''
Spring practice ended Saturday for the Mountaineers, who have their offense intact from the team that beat Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl. Holgorsen said he strived for developing depth and continuity during the spring so that players arrive prepared in August.
Once the conference season starts, there will be some familiar faces on opposing sidelines.
Texas' Mack Brown and Iowa State's Paul Rhoads have a history with West Virginia going back to the days of longtime coach Don Nehlen, who retired after the 2000 season.
Brown was North Carolina's coach when the Tar Heels beat Nehlen's Mountaineers in the 1997 Gator Bowl. A year later, Brown left the Tar Heels to take over at Texas.
Rhoads was an assistant under current Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville at Auburn when the Tigers lost to West Virginia in Morgantown in 2008.
And Rhoads was defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh that met West Virginia every Thanksgiving weekend in the Backyard Brawl. Pitt's 13-9 win in Morgantown in 2007 denied West Virginia the chance to play for the national championship.
There's the Sept. 29 Big 12 opener with Baylor, whose coach, Art Briles, served as an assistant with Holgorsen for three seasons under Leach at Texas Tech a decade ago.
Oklahoma's Bob Stoops was victimized by West Virginia's spread attack in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. Even new Kansas Coach Charlie Weis recalled coming to Morgantown as an NFL assistant looking over player workouts and visiting with then-WVU coach Rich Rodriguez.
"There will be excitement about facing all of them,'' Holgorsen said. "They're all quality coaches in the Big 12 and we're going to have our work cut out for each and every one of them. There's storylines with each and every opponent.''
Holgorsen wouldn't elaborate on whether there's personal excitement about a Nov. 10 matchup with Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State, where Holgorsen spent the 2010 season as offensive coordinator before getting his first head coaching job with the Mountaineers.
"It really doesn't matter what I think,'' Holgorsen said. "It's about what our kids think.''
Gundy took a similar path on squaring off with Holgorsen.
"Ultimately I don't know if that really matters,'' Gundy said. "It's really no different than (playing) against anybody else in our league. He may know some of our plays and we may know some of his plays. On Saturdays it comes down to the players They've got to go out there and execute.''
Like Holgorsen, Gary Patterson knows there's a lot of preparation ahead and the TCU coach refuses to get caught up in the hype of his first Big 12 season.
"Really we have to keep our head down,'' Patterson said. "We approached spring like we did every spring. Our spring was about being the best football team we could possibly be. That hasn't changed and that's what we're going to try to get accomplished going into two-a-days.''