MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Dana Holgorsen has already won a conference title and a BCS bowl and been ranked as high as No. 5 in the national polls in two seasons as West Virginia University's football coach.
WVU had two receivers and a quarterback drafted in the first three rounds in April, largely because of what they did after Holgorsen landed on campus in December 2010 and took Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Geno Smith under his wing.
Yet there's no use fighting this feeling on the cusp of the 2013 season: It's a lot like a fresh start for the third-year coach.
Holgorsen is not making a hasty transition from offensive coordinator to head coach with a staff of defensive coaches he was made to keep. He's not acquiescing to the Big 12 with a roster of players entirely unaware of what they're about to encounter beyond the insight Holgorsen gained from nine years spent in the league.
The staff is now composed entirely of his hires, and some of them are coaches he's needed to hire or reassign after misfiring on a prior decision. The past two recruiting classes have been full ones and the roster has been built to where it's just below the scholarship limit, somewhere the Mountaineers haven't been for far too long.
"It's much more settled, much more my program than it ever has been," Holgorsen said last week. "I don't know how to say this without sounding, not arrogant, but optimistic. I don't want to sound optimistic. I want to sound like the world is coming to an end, the sky is falling, the walls are crashing in on top of us, whatever.
"I want everyone to think that, know what I mean? I want everyone to think we're lousy."
He wants that to be the perception - or, more accurately, to continue to be the perception - because it is not the reality. Had it been? Was he not looking over his shoulder to monitor half a coaching staff he didn't hire and agreed to keep for a season? Wasn't he sidestepping the issues that come from rolling into a new conference with all the momentum and swagger that a program could want and that an opponent could despise?
And isn't that all gone?
"The truth of the matter is I feel pretty good about where we are right now," he said. "I'm looking forward to coaching this team more than I have the previous two teams."
Consider that, for just a moment. The 2011 season was his first as a head coach. It started with the most talented team in the Big East and ended with a 10-touchdown performance in the laughable Orange Bowl. The 2012 season started with seemingly sane conversations about Heisman Trophy contenders, Big 12 title legitimacy and national title possibilities.
The 2013 season is like neither of those.
But, it's the best fit yet.
"It seems like we've got a lot more bodies, a lot more seasoned bodies, a lot more potential," Holgorsen said. "We're at 82, 83 (scholarship players out of a maximum of 85). The first year, we were under 70. Last year, we were around 76, 77. Numbers-wise, we're getting a lot closer to where we want to be. Staff-wise, scheme-wise, I really like where we're at and now we're ready to start coaching them. We'll know a lot more here in the next three weeks."