MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- What might be the most important search third-year Coach Dana Holgorsen commences today is not for a player who will start at quarterback or fill any of the many holes on offense, defense and special teams.
This is instead a quest to identify the best five skill players on offense who Holgorsen can group with the new quarterback and the five offensive linemen, three of which will be new. That group of skill players could very well be a running back, a wide receiver, a tight end, a fullback, a slot receiver, a running back, a slot receiver, a wide receiver, a slot receiver and a wide receiver.
That's what Holgorsen wants when preseason camp begins.
Holgorsen will monitor a roster with many players capable of playing more than one position. If he can identify and advance those players, he can then use one formation on one play, hurry from the whistle to the next snap and then feature a totally different formation with the same personnel on the next play. Or he can bring a player onto the field that the defense recognizes from one position and then put that player at a different position to trick the defense.
"It's about trying to figure out what they can handle," Holgorsen said Wednesday.
"I have no idea what the offense is going to look like right now, but I'm excited about trying to figure it out and trying to figure out what they can do. We will gear our offense accordingly once we figure out what they can do."
If the Mountaineers are going to contend with a shortage of talent after losing Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to the NFL, then pace, versatility and the deception that comes with those features can help them close that gap.
"It's about personnel groupings," Holgorsen said. "Having guys come onto the field and the defensive coordinator doesn't know where they're going, that's what we're trying to get to. But it's hard to do."
Holgorsen hasn't done this at WVU. He didn't have enough depth at running back to experiment with a player in the slot. He had barely enough trustworthy receivers to fill out the normal positions. Bailey and Austin, simply put, were so good at their respective spots that it didn't make much sense to move them around from one play to the next.
Bailey never left the left side of the field.
It took Holgorsen until his 22nd game with Austin to give him the ball as a legitimate running back, and even that was a drastic deviation from what Holgorsen prefers to do.
"The nature of the offense is to not do that," Holgorsen said. "The nature of the offense is to get guys into a position they feel good about and are comfortable with and not move guys around. Catching a fade route over the left shoulder is a different skill than catching a fade route over the right shoulder.