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WVU football: Rawlins is not typical recruit for Holgorsen

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Here is what we thus far know about Chavas Rawlins, the kid with the name from your college football video game who might have the skills to match.

He is the fourth of four players in West Virginia's 2013 recruiting class. He'll be a senior at Monessen (Pa.) in the fall.

He stands 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs around 190 pounds during the season.

Rawlins is talented enough that he had scholarship offers from programs in the Big Ten, Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference and Big 12 on both offense and defense.

He just might flip the way we think about Coach Dana Holgorsen's offense upside down.

Rawlins is what scouting services, as well as college coaches, call a dual-threat quarterback.

He beats teams and earned his scholarship offers with what he does with his right arm and long legs.

"I'm somewhat, but not entirely surprised that the West Virginia staff would recruit a quarterback with more of a reputation as a dual-threat quarterback than as a traditional pocket passer," said Chris Brown, the mind behind and author of the new X and O book "The Essential Smart Football."

"Although I don't foresee any dramatic shifts in Dana's offensive philosophy to a spread-to-run type system, he has always valued

quarterbacks with excellent feet and athletic skills for their ability to add an additional dimension to his offense."

That's Rawlins. Check the highlight videos online and see him drop a deep ball in a bucket or lead a receiver on slant.

Stick around to witness him take a shotgun snap and sell a pass, only to sprint through the middle on a draw and go untouched for a score. If that doesn't do it for you, watch him race around the end on a designed sweep and beat everyone to the sideline.

It's what you once knew with Pat White at WVU, but not what you have with Geno Smith now.

As a junior at Monessen, Rawlins threw for 991 yards and 10 touchdowns. When Mountaineers freshman Ford Childress was a senior at Houston's Kincaid High in 2011, he passed for seven touchdowns in one game and 447 yards in another.

WVU wanted both of them badly and this coaching staff doesn't mess around when it comes to recruiting that position. They want one quarterback every year and the responsibility belongs to quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital, who says his goal is to simply "find one I like."

Enter Rawlins, who had offers to play quarterback at a bunch of schools, including Georgia Tech and Nebraska, one an option offense and one a spread offense, but two that use their quarterback's legs.

Rawlins passed 153 times last season and ran 97 times for 599 yards. Monessen has a spread offense and opponents revered his arm and his receivers.

That created opportunities for Rawlins to run, and as his coach, Andy Pacak, likes to say, "then you've got a new set of problems."

The point is raised because Graham Watson of Yahoo! ran a story this month about the ever-innovative Holgorsen that contained this: "We've got all kinds of triple option stuff. I'd encourage you to write that."

So she did, noting Holgorsen's wry wit, but also hinting there might be something sly to it.

"Actually, we could slip some speed option in there," Holgorsen said. "Geno is not quite the athlete Robert Griffin was, but he's a good athlete so we could probably do some speed option."

Holgorsen's mind races marathons in the offseason. He goes to clinics, networks with peers and sometimes just sits and thinks.

He introduces the diamond backfield or the hot potato pass and generally finds ways to keep his foes from keeping up with his offense.

And the truth is his offense can utilize the quarterback. Graham Harrell was serviceably mobile at Texas Tech and Holgorsen said it would have been "comical" to see Brandon Weeden run at Oklahoma State, but Case Keenum was a good runner who happened to be a very good passer at Houston.

He gained nearly 700 yards in two seasons with Holgorsen.

So here's where things get either exciting or scary, depending on what side of the stadium you sit. WVU singled out Rawlins because of what the staff believes he can do. As Spavital prophesized, the offense recruited Rawlins and Rawlins believes he knows the offense already and that it fits him like a pair of comfy cleats.

Still, the throw is so treasured that the quarterback isn't often asked, or even sanctioned, to run for fear of injury. Nothing against Paul Millard, who the staff really likes, or Childress, who the staff wants to redshirt in 2012, but Holgorsen can't have Smith injured and watching his understudies. The same could be said before of Harrell, Keenum and Weeden.

In his six seasons as either the offensive coordinator or head coach, Holgorsen's starting quarterbacks have netted just 121 yards rushing. Carries, sacks, scrambles, you name it, a mere 278 carries since 2007 and never more than 10 in a single game. The average per attempt is but 0.44 yards.

Yet Holgorsen sees something in Rawlins and his jukes and jets and maybe it's something opponents have never seen from Holgorsen. Time will tell.

"I think they are much more comfortable with the depth they have at quarterback now, which gives any recruit now time to grow and develop," said Brown, who has an affinity for Holgorsen's designs. "Indeed, Holgorsen always says the best feature of his offense is not the plays, but instead how they practice and therefore develop players over time.

"While he was at Texas Tech, Mike Leach and Holgorsen started four straight fifth-year senior quarterbacks. The coaches obviously think they'll have time to work with and develop Rawlins' considerable physical skills."

 Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at or 304-319-1142. His blog is at


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