New-look WVU eyes improvement in Big 12

| Saturday, March 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

West Virginia's first spring football practice Sunday isn't too early for coach Dana Holgorsen to think about having more success in the Big 12 in 2013.

WVU's 4-5 conference record in its first Big 12 season is a constant reminder of how difficult the transition is to a new league.

“That has been one of the vocal points the past eight weeks,” Holgorsen said. “We have constantly emphasized that.

“I said it a year ago: It is going to take some time to go through this before we truly understand it.”

The Mountaineers, which finished 7-6 overall, defeated Baylor and Texas before dropping consecutive losses to Texas Tech, Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. WVU defeated Iowa State and Kansas to end the season.

The results validated Holgorsen's warnings to his players they were taking a big step up in competition.

“When we show them film on the specific schools, it makes sense to them now,” Holgorsen said. “It is probably going to take another year and a return trip. There are still five schools in the Big 12 that we haven't been to yet (Oklahoma, Kansas State, Baylor, TCU and Kansas), so I think it takes time to play these guys to where you can look back on last year but also look back on the two years prior. They will be more familiar with it.”

With the quarterback position unsettled following the departure of school passing leader Geno Smith, look for WVU to rely more on the running game, at least until a reliable starter emerges from the quarterback trio of Paul Millard, Ford Childress and freshman Chavas Rawlins of Monessen.

“Probably the strength of where we are right now is running back,” Holgorsen said. “That's where all our production is returning.”

Andrew Buie rushed for 850 yards and scored seven touchdowns last season. Dustin Garrison, who rushed for 292 yards against Bowling Green as a freshman, is expected back at full strength after sitting out most of last season following knee surgery.

Buie and Garrison hold the initial edge over Dreamius Smith, who scored 17 touchdowns and averaged 8.2 yards per carry at Butler (Kan.) Community College last season. Holgorsen said Smith and freshman Wendall Smallwood already have impressed the coaching staff.

“That has always been a key component to what we do offensively,” Holgorsen said. “My two years at Houston, we had a 1,000-yard rusher. I was at Oklahoma State and we almost had 2,000-yard rushers. We have been running the ball 40 to 50 percent for several years. That is something that we are always trying to get better at.”

Notes: WVU hired JaJuan Seider as running backs coach. Seider, who served as a WVU graduate assistant in 2008 and '09, was running backs coach and recruiting coordinator at Marshall since 2010. ... WVU will practice for five weeks, concluding with the spring game April 20. “We get to spend 20 hours a week with them opposed to eight hours a week,” Holgorsen said. ... Thomas Jefferson product Pat Eger, who had minor ankle surgery after the season, is being counted on to move from tackle to center. Eger will be limited to noncontact work at practice. Other players limited to noncontact work include defensive back Avery Williams (neck) and linebacker Jewone Snow (shoulder). Wide receiver Dante Campbell (shoulder surgery) and cornerback Terrell Chestnut (knee surgery) are expected to return in June or July.

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @JHarris_Trib.

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