"It can always get worse," said running back Shawne Alston
Still, if everyone returns on offense, Holgorsen will have Smith, offensive linemen Don Barclay, Josh Jenkins, Joe Madsen, Cole Bowers and Jeff Braun, running backs Alston and Trey Johnson, fullback Ryan Clarke, tight end Tyler Urban and receivers Tavon Austin, J.D. Woods, Brad Starks, Ivan McCartney and Bailey for his first season.
The entire defensive coaching staff is welcome back, but the Mountaineers lose defensive linemen Scooter Berry and Chris Neild, linebackers J.T. Thomas, Pat Lazear and Anthony Leonard, cornerback Brandon Hogan and safety Sidney Glover to graduation from the starting defense. Additionally, junior safety Robert Sands may opt for the NFL.
"If I can make just a little difference offensively, I think it'll work really well with (defensive coordinator) Jeff Casteel, who I have a ton of respect for," Holgorsen said. "He's well-known throughout the coaching circles. What he's accomplished over the last 10 years - when you're in the top 10, traditionally that means you're doing something well. When you do that on a consistent basis, that means you're a dang good football coach."
After building a recruiting class and a coaching staff, the top concern for Holgorsen is the health of Smith. The sophomore played the entire season on an injured left foot that will require surgery next month.
Smith completed 241 of 372 pass attempts for 2,763 yards and 24 touchdowns to seven interceptions, but will have a third operation on the same foot. His status for the spring is uncertain. Previous surgeries have kept Smith from full participation in 2009 fall camp and 2010 spring practice.
His backup, freshman Barry Brunetti, previously announced on Twitter he would transfer. He told the Memphis Commercial Appeal Wednesday he was "kind of miserable" at WVU and will head to either Ole Miss, Memphis or Arkansas State.
WVU has no other scholarship quarterback on the roster, though high school senior Brian Athey has committed and could enroll in January.
If Smith isn't physically cleared, he will at least be around to learn from Holgorsen in the spring. Holgorsen said his offense, which relies on the quarterback's decisions before and immediately after the snap, is implemented in a three-day cycle. It's been known to be intricate and to change from time to time. For various reasons, Holgorsen has been labeled previously as an "eccentric" personality, to which he rolls his eyes.
"I don't know if that's good or not," he said. "If you win it seems like a good idea. If you're eccentric and you don't win and don't change things, you look like an idiot. You've got to be creative enough to change some things, but if it ever gets to the point the quarterback has to think twice - he's got to get the reads right away.
"If he's not 100 percent in tune with what you're doing, you've got to get rid of it. The problem with changing things is it makes you think. If they're thinking, they're not reacting the way you want them to."
The other initiative will be fixing WVU's season-long trouble with turnovers.
As bad as the Mountaineers were with ball security, the five turnovers committed in the bowl were the most in a game this season. WVU had three or more turnovers in six games and just three games with not turnovers. The team finished minus-6 in turnover margin and lost the turnover battle seven times and lost three of those games.
The 28 turnovers was the highest total since the 2001 team committed 32.
"A lot of people ask what my philosophy is," Holgorsen said. "Offensively speaking, what we try to do, aside from getting first downs and touchdowns, is try to teach the guys to play smart. Don't turn the ball over. Don't have many penalties. Move forward. That's the only chance you have to be successful."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.