MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Maybe Dana Holgorsen wanted to buck the notion he was simply a Mike Leach protege who depended heavily on the passing philosophy he learned in eight years working for the former Texas Tech coach.
Perhaps it really was what Holgorsen later described as inspiration drawn from "sheer boredom" in the offseason.
Whatever the cause, when Holgorsen debuted as Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator last season, the guy everyone expected to use three, four and five receivers on every play did something unexpected.
Holgorsen showed off the "diamond" formation that featured three running backs. Oklahoma State scored 65 points and racked up 544 yards of offense.
At the end of a season that produced 11 victories, the Cowboys were No. 3 in total offense thanks to making frequent use of a formation Holgorsen had never used before his arrival in Stillwater, Okla.
The diamond made the trip to West Virginia in hopes of lifting up an offense that was No. 78 in scoring and No. 67 in total yards in 2010.
"We actually put it in last year to be able to throw the ball to a couple receivers we thought were pretty good," said Holgorsen, who said Saturday he completed his second week of spring practice with the Mountaineers ahead of schedule. "The more we did it, the better we liked it. It creates some angles and creates some gaps that you don't get with a true tight end."
Holgorsen showed up in Stillwater and quickly learned he had a pretty good group of running backs and some talented receivers, including Justin Blackmon. He wasn't a prolific player in 2009, but won the Biletnikoff Award in one season with Holgorsen as proof of how well the diamond could work.
"You don't have a lot of true tight ends running around out there," Holgorsen said. "Those other body types are easier to find, so you have to be creative and use a little motion to move them around and give them a little advantage."
As a part of Holgorsen's offensive package, the diamond put two running backs and a fullback with the quarterback behind the five offensive linemen. Two receivers split out wide and the offenses suddenly didn't need a tight end.
The formation created gaps and angles by removing the tight end's defender from near the line of scrimmage.
With three ball-carriers eligible, Holgorsen was able to design deception, prevent the defense from focusing on a single back and still run the ball the same he did in his more traditional offense.
"It's a little different," he said. "We can go inside and talk the rest of the day for, like, seven hours for me to explain the blocking stuff and schemes and all that, but what we do with one back or two backs, we can put a third one in there and do the same thing."
An offense with three backs wasn't new to college football, but it was different to see it out of the shotgun and an element in a passing offense, as opposed to a staple of a wishbone or triple-option attack.
Yet it worked and it made sense why.