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Familiarity breeds success for new offense


By Drew Rubenstein

The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.


Feb. 07--With Rich Rodriguez, it was about playing fast: "Spot the ball" and "Play like your hair is on fire."

For the first three seasons under current WVU head football coach Bill Stewart, the Mountaineers' motto was "Leave no doubt," a style that leaned on a stingy defense, ballcontrol offense, field position and managing the clock.

With new WVU coordinator Dana Holgorsen, the offensive theme is simple.

"Show 'em the ball."

Holgorsen and his everevolving offense have roots in Hal Mumme and Mike Leach, who were Holgorsen's head coach and offensive coordinator while he was a player at Iowa Wesleyan College, in the late 1980s and early '90s.

A n d although W V U 's five offens ive coaches were at four diff e re n t schools in 2010, returning wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway is the only assistant without ties to Mumme, Leach and/or Holgorsen.

There's a common familiarity with Holgorsen's offense, which resembles Leach's "Air Raid" pass attack.

"1/8Coach Mumme3/8 said fans like to see the ball more, and so you see the ball when it's in the air. You don't really see it when you're handing it off," said WVU inside-receivers coach Shannon Dawson, who started his coaching career under Mumme, at Southeastern Louisiana University. "He said fans like to see the football. That was his opinion, and I think it's true."

That's not to say the offense can't or won't run the ball -- under Holgorsen, Oklahoma State ranked third nationally in total offense (520 yards per game) while rushing more than 40 percent of the time, for 174 yards a game -- but it is designed to sling it around quickly to a variety of receivers.

"Two years ago, I went into a game and threw it 89 times 1/8actually 853/8 and broke a national record," said Dawson, whose Stephen F. Austin quarterback Jeremy Moses set NCAA records for completions (57) and attempts, for 501 yards and four touchdowns, in a 34-31 triple-overtime loss to Sam Houston State. "If I would have ran it every time we would have lost in regulation."

United front

Holgorsen accepted this WVU position on one condition.

"Offensively, I told Bill 1/8Stewart3/8 and Oliver 1/8Luck, WVU's athletic director3/8 that I wasn't going to do this without having these guys here," Holgorsen said of his assistants. "I was fortunate that all the guys I offered came. But I know them well and the offensive room right now is pleasant and easy because these guys already know what I'm saying and what I'm thinking. I can even step out of the room to do other things and the meeting can continue because they're on the same page as me."

Holgorsen was college teammates with WVU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh, and the two worked together at Texas Tech under Leach. WVU's head coach "in waiting" also recruited and instructed Dawson at Wingate.

Running backs coach Robert Gillespie worked on Holgorsen's staff at Oklahoma State last season and recently turned down an assistant job at the University of Florida, his alma mater, to remain in Morgantown.

Galloway is the only WVU offensive assistant currently learning the offense. The rest are well-versed and searching for ways to tweak it.

In fact, Holgorsen and Dawson spent a month in the summer of 2008 watching cut-ups and designing identical playbooks before Holgorsen took over as the University of Houston's offensive coordinator and Dawson as O.C. at Stephen F. Austin.

Since then, the two spoke at least once a week to bounce ideas off one another until reuniting in January.

"It was different guys calling it, but if you watch film, it's the same stuff: same movements, same routes, same everything," Dawson said of the offenses at OSU and SFA.

And since leaving Texas Tech, Holgorsen and Bedenbaugh, who went to Arizona, remained friends who constantly bounced ideas off one another.

That familiarity has proven beneficial as the staff begins to implement its detailed plan for the Mountaineers before spring practice begins at the end of March. The coaches have all of the Oklahoma State, Arizona, Stephen F. Austin and WVU film from last season on file.

"We'll primarily watch Oklahoma State film," Holgorsen said. "And if they have ideas on how to do things better, which they will because everybody's got ideas on how to do things better, then we'll put their tape in and have them prove it.

"We just mesh ideas together. I have absolutely no interest in what happened 1/8at WVU3/8 last year offensively. I don't know what they did. This game is hard enough without bringing too much other stuff into the equation."

Still evolving

Holgorsen believes his offense is successful and popular because it is simple and efficient. Dawson said the offense consists of about 15 plays run out of a variety of formations. It is implemented in three days, and then the process is repeated over and over with minor wrinkles until all movements become second nature to players. At least that's the hope.

"I've never been a guy who says 'well, it's going to take us two years, it's going to take us three years.' My deal, it's going to take us a week," Dawson said. "Let's get it done right now. Everybody who's here, that's our philosophy. The last two places I've been in and installed it, the first two weeks of spring look a little hectic. It's going to look bad, but the big thing is you can't panic, you've got to stay the course and you've got to have fun."

O.C. of future?

With similar-minded offensive coaches on staff, there's no clear-cut favorite to take over as the Mountaineers' offensive coordinator in 2012, when Holgorsen becomes head coach.

"That depends on who does a good job here over the next year," Holgorsen said. "Maybe I'll do it, I don't know. I really don't know yet. They all bring a lot to the table. I'm not dangling any carrots in front of anybody. And these guys don't necessarily care, to be honest with you. We're just excited to be working together and we're only worried about winning next year."


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