MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- He is barely three months removed from his second season as a college football head coach, one that ended with the worst record Dana Holgorsen has experienced since Texas Tech also finished 7-6 in 2000.
That was the start of his Division I coaching career. This is still very much the start for him running his own program. What he learned last season is what's being put to use during spring football for Holgorsen and his third West Virginia team.
"That we're not a whole lot different than the rest of the people in the Big 12," Holgorsen said after the sixth of WVU's 15 spring practices. "There were nine bowl teams in the Big 12 and seven of them were 7-5, so the reality of the situation is we're in a conference that has a whole lot of parity and everybody better understand that."
Actually, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU and WVU finished the regular season 7-5 and the Cowboys, Bears and Red Raiders won their bowl games while the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers lost their bowl games. Texas finished the regular season 8-4 and won its bowl game and Iowa State finished 6-6 and lost its bowl game.
To Holgorsen's point, though, seven of the nine bowl-eligible teams in the 10-team conference finished 7-5 or within a game of that. Only Texas and Iowa State are likely to start the same quarterback in the 2013 season opener that they started in the bowl game. Teams throughout the conference are now coping with major losses on offense, defense or both.
Holgorsen knows equality might be something the Mountaineers have to get used to as they get settled in their new conference.
"We have to be incredibly comfortable with all three of our schemes, which we are, and we have to coach them at a high level and we have to demand that our team buys into what they're saying," Holgorsen said. "We have a program full of guys that are ready to step up and play when they are ready to step up, like our staff right now."
The spring is as much about the coaches Holgorsen leads in meeting rooms as it is the players those coaches lead on the field. There are nine assistant coaches on a college team. Only one of Holgorsen's nine is doing the same thing he did last season and defensive line coach Erik Slaughter, perhaps not surprisingly, is in charge of the group that is drawing arguably the strongest reviews so far.
Everyone else is either one of the five coaches Holgorsen hired in the offseason or one of the three who returned, though to a new role.
"I like our staff cohesion, and I like what we are doing on all three sides," Holgorsen said. "I like the fact that the players are buying in. It doesn't mean that we're going to win any games. It means that everyone needs to understand what the challenges are and not take anything for granted."
Holgorsen is clear that when he references "everyone," whether in regard to recognizing the closeness of the league or the challenges the Big 12 presents, he means himself, his assistants and his coaches. It is here where everyone benefits from Holgorsen's practice structure.