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West Virginia staff familiar with Big 12 methods

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, right, encourages his players during their NCAA college football game against Maryland in Morgantown, W.Va., Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012. WVU won, 31-21 (AP Photo/Christopher Jackson)

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Been there

WVU coaches with Big 12 experience:

Dana Holgorsen, coach (nine years)

Joe DeForest, defensive coordinator (11 years)

Robert Gillespie, running backs (two years)

Bill Bedenbaugh, offensive line (seven years)

Jake Spavital, quarterbacks (one year)

Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen personally hand-picked his coaching staff with the Big 12 weighing heavily on his mind.

In all, five members of WVU's coaching staff gained Big 12 experience prior to joining the Mountaineers.

That includes Holgorsen, an assistant for nine seasons at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State who spent his final four years in the conference as an offensive coordinator.

Holgorsen's strategic personnel decision — that half of his coaching staff be familiar with the Big 12 — should come in handy when No. 9 WVU opens conference play against No. 25 Baylor at noon Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium. It will be the first of nine consecutive conference games for the Mountaineers (3-0).

“The one thing that I say is, from a coaching staff standpoint, we went out and hired some guys,” Holgorsen told reporters at Big 12 media days in July. “When I was at Conference USA (as Houston's offensive coordinator), it was a lot like the Big 12 is as far as what was happening offensively.

“So I just hired some guys that understand what it's like, and then, you've got to get that message across to your players.”

The message?

Don't take it personally when Big 12 opponents put up big numbers against the Mountaineers.

“The mentality that needs to exist on defense is to have a short memory,” Holgorsen said this week. “That's one of the reasons Joe DeForest is here. Keith Patterson understands that mentality, as well. There's so many good offenses in the Big 12. You've got to line up and keep playing.”

Five Big 12 teams rank among the top 10 nationally in scoring, led by Oklahoma State at a Division I-leading 62.3 points per game.

Baylor is No. 5 at 51.3 points per game.

“Our familiarity with Baylor, as far as what kind of team their mindset is, we know them very well,” said Holgorsen, whose offense averages 47.3 points per game to rank No. 10 nationally.

“There's a lot of guys on our staff (who have) either coached with them or coached against them.

“Baylor's got a great offense. If you think we're going to shut them down, you're nuts. If you give up a couple plays or a couple touchdowns, you've got to be able to focus to get a key stop. That's the mentality you've got to have, especially when you play a team like Baylor.”

DeForest was an assistant at Oklahoma State from 2001-11, where he was associate head coach and coached special teams and safeties. Holgorsen and DeForest were on the Cowboys' staff in 2010.

DeForest, who along with Patterson installed a new defense this season, has emphasized building depth to prepare for Big 12 passing attacks and their no-huddle and fast-paced offenses.

“You have to have multiple kids and great depth to be able to handle the up-tempo and the speed of the game,” DeForest said. “The offense runs a guy vertical, and then he runs off the field. The corner who just covered him has to come back and cover the fresh guy that runs the vertical the next time.”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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