Running backs Shawne Alston, Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie, linebacker Doug Rigg and safety Terence Garvin missed games because of injury while an offensive line played on and rotated configurations despite lacking much depth. Old players merged with new coaches to learn the offense while new coaches on offense coexisted with incumbent coaches on defense. Those defensive coaches eventually left for the University of Arizona in the offseason.
Yet WVU never fell apart and grew to feel at home with discomfort. Holgorsen knows the first game will be a test and the first time Holgorsen gets to see a reaction since WVU trailed in the Orange Bowl.
"I want to know which one of the guys is going to stand up and get in front of 22 of his peers and say, 'Enough is enough,' much like Keith Tandy and Najee Goode did last year," Holgorsen said, referring to his two most vocal seniors last season.
"That's probably the biggest think I'm worried about on defense - not having guys who haven't played or guys who haven't made a bunch of plays, but guys who can stand up in the locker room and stand up in front of somebody and say, 'This is not acceptable.'"
The issues could come early and Holgorsen, or any coach preparing for the opener, has plenty to fret. Tackling and special teams are hard to simulate in practices and a lot of teams don't do much of either. The Mountaineers have, though, and feel they're ready.
Freshmen often struggle with the first game and whatever jitters are attached, but Holgorsen couldn't be more content with receiver Jordan Thompson and safety Karl Joseph, starters who enrolled in January.
The biggest change on offense is Quinton Spain replacing Don Barclay at left tackle, but Spain has maintained the starting spot since the spring. The defensive coaches and the scheme are new, but Holgorsen has no reservations about that before the first game because he said Marshall doesn't know what the Mountaineers will do.
"I feel like we're fully prepared," he said. "We've played a lot of football against each other the last four weeks. We've probably played more live situations the last four weeks than I've been a part of before."
Certain in his team's preparations and ability, he's also convinced that the Thundering Herd will be improved. A team that ended the season with a 7-6 record and a bowl win after the nation's 16th-hardest schedule returns eight starters on offense and five on defense.
Holgorsen said those players, as well as numerous backups who are back or now starting, played harder against WVU than they did against any of the other 11 opponents. He said that won't change and his team needs to be ready for that in the first game.
"Regardless of who we play, whether it was Marshall last year or LSU, which was the No. 1 team in the country (a week later), it's always like that," Holgorsen said. "Highly motivated teams are dangerous and we know Marshall is going to be highly motivated.
"One of the things we talk a lot about here is playing hard means giving great effort. A lack of effort is something that will not be tolerated around here."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.