What is Holgorsen Looking For?
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - What will new offensive coordinator and eventual Mountaineer coach Dana Holgorsen be looking for when signing day arrives in February?
Based on West Virginia's two-deep roster for the Champs Sports Bowl, a lot of attention will have to be paid to the defensive side of the football. Seven key contributors, including junior safety Robert Sands who announced last week that he was entering the NFL draft, need replaced.
That includes two of the Mountaineers' top three defensive linemen (Chris Neild and Scooter Berry), three of the team's top four linebackers (J.T. Thomas, Anthony Leonard and Pat Lazear) and two important back-end players (Sands and Sidney Glover).
Throw in corner Brandon Hogan, who did not play in the bowl game because of a knee injury, and you are looking at some extensive remodeling on defense.
On offense, Holgorsen will need to identify replacements for tight end Will Johnson, offensive lineman Eric Jobe, record-setting slot receiver Jock Sanders and running back Noel Devine.
There are also depth concerns at quarterback where both Jeremy Johnson and Barry Brunetti opted to transfer after just one semester in the program sitting behind sophomore starter Geno Smith.
In extensive interviews Holgorsen gave last month following his hiring, he offered some insight into the areas he plans to recruit and how he will utilize his staff to cover those areas.
"Really there are three pockets," Holgorsen explained. "Florida is huge - they get a ton of athletes from Florida and they've got lots of connections from Florida. Then you've got the Washington, D.C.-Virginia area, which has got a lot of good athletes, and then they get lots of linemen from Pennsylvania and Ohio."
Holgorsen said he will give his coaches a lot of leeway in determining which players are eventually signed in February.
"As a head coach you have to overrule things sometimes, but you want your position coaches to pick your guys because they are the ones that have got to be in the (meeting) room with them," he said.
"Say as an offensive coordinator I pick an offensive lineman and the offensive line coach doesn't want that kid, then he's not going to coach him very hard," he said.
Holgorsen believes the one area that absolutely must be in sync with the offensive coordinator is offensive line.
"You can deal with a receiver coach or a running back coach that has a different philosophy, but if you and the O-line coach are on the same page then you've got a chance," Holgorsen said.
"The line is the most important position," Holgorsen added. "That is more important than having a tough quarterback, or having a receiver that can make a play downfield or a running back that can carry the ball 25 times."
Since Holgorsen will concentrate solely on offense this year, he will spend a great deal of time evaluating and determining the needs on that side of the football. Holgorsen said his offensive system is based on repetition and is very easy to learn.
"It makes sense and it's all about putting it in (the players') hands and getting them as good as we can at it," Holgorsen said.
Holgorsen noted that he has installed offenses for experienced and inexperienced teams as well as coaching staffs established and in flux.
"Last year, I came into a staff that had four guys already, and implemented it with four returning starters and we led the nation this year, granted it was only by one yard," he said. "That (total yards) isn't even really the stuff that matters. What I am looking forward to next year is getting at the stuff that matters like turnover margin, least amount of sacks and negative plays."
In the end, Holgorsen understands it's not what the coaches know that is important - it's what the players know that ultimately determine results on the field.
"I think it makes sense to them, and once it makes sense to them and they get it, we line them up, try not to move them around and just keep running reps," he said.
For now, West Virginia's coaches have less than a month until signing day to figure out what players are still available and who fits best for what they are doing.
"We have to find out who's out there, what we have, and what we need to go get," Holgorsen said.
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