MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Dana Holgorsen says he’s anxious to roll up his sleeves and get to work for Mountaineer football when he gets the opportunity to take over West Virginia’s offense on Jan. 1, 2011.
In the meantime, he says there is some unfinished business left for him to do at Oklahoma State, and also for the coaches here at WVU in their respective bowl games.
“Just like what you guys are about to do, my next step is to get on a plane and fly to San Antonio and try to finish what I started at Oklahoma State, which is get from 10 wins to 11 wins,” he said Wednesday afternoon in front of a gathering of reporters at the team room inside the Milan Puskar Center. “I’ll spend the next week in San Antonio trying to make that happen.”
Holgorsen brings heady credentials to Morgantown. His offenses at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State have not finished worse than third nationally in passing yards and sixth nationally in total offense in each of the last six seasons.
“Offensively, what we try to do, outside of trying to get first downs and touchdowns, is to teach these guys how to play smart,” he explained. “If you don’t turn the ball over, and you don’t have penalties, and you move forward, you have a chance to be successful.
“Making sure that the guys play hard is incredibly important,” he said. “What I mean by playing hard is not going out there and giving effort, which is important, but being a physical football team is also important.”
Holgorsen’s offenses have been known for their wide open style, but he says what he does is much more than just lining up in five wides all afternoon.
“If you study what I’ve done over the last three years, you have tight ends, fullbacks and various backs involved,” he said. “We do want to run the football as much as we want to throw the football, and you have to be physical to do that.”
Holgorsen cut his teeth as a small college player at Iowa Wesleyan for Hal Mumme and Mike Leach, both known for their innovative offensive approaches.
“I started with Hal Mumme. I played for him and he started doing this kind of offense 20-25 years ago,” Holgorsen said. “He researched it, developed the system based on various trips to BYU, the Green Bay Packers and local high schools in the Texas area. He developed it, believed in it, and ran with it. The Xs and Os, as far as how you coach, I learned from him.”
Holgorsen said he learned offensive organization from Mike Leach working for him at Texas Tech before moving on to the University of Houston three years ago.
“People thought I was crazy to leave the Big 12 to go to Conference USA, but I left for two reasons – I was tired of telling Mike to punt, and I wanted to make those decisions, as far as deciding what to do on the third and fourth downs,” he said. “Being able to do it on my own and working for Kevin Sumlin (at Houston) were the two things that were important to me. I learned a lot from Kevin as far as just being able to manage a program.”
Holgorsen is now excited about translating what he’s learned from others to benefit West Virginia’s football program.
“Playing a fast tempo, having a good rhythm, moving the ball fast and making it very exciting is kind of what we’re about,” he said. “If you do those three things - and you win - then you can have fun. I never want to go to work and not have fun. I never want these kids to go out to practice or to a game and not have fun.
“I think having a philosophy of keeping it loose and letting the guys be themselves, while also making sure you’re doing things right like playing hard, playing smart and playing fast, lets you have a chance of being successful.”
Holgorsen had other coaching opportunities and admits it would have been much easier to announce this transition following the bowl games, but he understands that’s not always possible in this day and age. He said he has a policy of never talking about jobs.
“I didn’t talk about this one and I didn’t talk about the rest of them,” he said. “I don’t ever shop myself around. I don’t think that is necessary. I think the people that do shop themselves around have agendas, and don’t focus on the task at hand.
“Throughout the course of this season, I took it one week at a time. We were in a routine,” he said. “We played well for the majority of the time – and that was what was important. I don’t shop jobs and I don’t talk about jobs.”
Holgorsen said it will take some time to get to know West Virginia’s offensive personnel because of commitments - first to Oklahoma State and then his commitment to recruiting the best possible players to West Virginia University before signing day in February.
“(Learning the team) will happen probably sometime in February with recruiting being so important in January,” he said. “It was the same situation for me at Oklahoma State and I got started there in February. There’s plenty of time in February to get to know these kids and figure out where we need to line them up.”
Holgorsen said there is also plenty of time to get to know the defensive coaches he will be going up against every day in practice.
“I want to keep (defensive coordinator) Jeff Casteel happy,” he said. “My job for the whole year is just to get the offense where we want it, then keep him happy after that – keep the offense the same, keep the defense the same and then just evaluate where I think things need to be at in a year and make as little changes as we possibly can.”
Eventually, Holgorsen is slated to follow Bill Stewart as head coach for the 2012 season. In the end, Holgorsen said the relationship he developed with Oliver Luck and Bill Stewart was too attractive to turn down.
“You want to go somewhere where you are surrounded by good people and where you are in a position to win football games,” he explained. “There are a lot of places out there that are facing uphill battles as far as winning games. It’s not a perfect situation at other places. Here, it’s 60 wins in six years. You have a chance to win and be with some good people that are all focused on winning a championship.