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WVU's Holgorsen: 'Time for me to go to work'

| Tuesday, July 23, 2013, 6:27 p.m.
Tribune-Review
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen greets wide receiver Tavon Austin during their 59-10 victory over Kansas on Dec. 1, 2012, at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va.

DALLAS ­— West Virginia enters its second season in the Big 12 with what Dana Holgorsen calls the “exact opposite” expectations from last year.

Where the Mountaineers were a top-10 team thanks to a star-studded cast of skill players and despite an inexperienced defense, they now are picked to finish eighth in the 10-team conference.

West Virginia must replace nine offensive starters, including quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, from a team that finished a disappointing 7-6 last year.

Surprisingly, Holgorsen finds it “refreshing.”

“We don't have anybody coming back, but it's pretty much the exact reason why I got hired two-and-a-half years ago,” Holgorsen said Tuesday at Big 12 media days. “I'd rather it be put on me to make sure our offense is going in the right direction than have to rely on the side of the ball that I'm not involved with as much.

“Defensively, we've got more experience coming back and I like where we're headed schematically and coaches-wise, which will allow me to be able to focus exclusively on offense. Not to say I'm not going to understand what we're doing defensively or special teams-wise, but why was I hired? I was hired because of what we did offensively. It's time for me to go to work.”

Florida State transfer Clint Trickett, junior Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress will compete to replace Smith as the starting quarterback. Holgorsen believes one of the three will separate himself quickly in training camp and hopes to name a starter as soon as possible.

Picking a starting running back might be tougher, simply because of the depth at the position. Andrew Buie led the team in rushing with 851 yards, including 207 against Texas, while Dustin Garrison averaged 4.5 yards per carry in 10 games. Houston transfer Charles Sims ran for 2,370 yards in three seasons and was named the Big 12's preseason Newcomer of the Year. Dreamius Smith was one of the nation's most coveted junior-college backs.

“We need some playmakers on offense after losing, I think, 90 percent of our production last year or whatever that crazy number is,” Holgorsen said. “I do feel good about where we're at, running back-wise.”

Holgorsen said he hasn't lost sleep over his star trio heading to the NFL.

“I'll say this: I'm glad some of them are gone,” said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, whose Sooners host West Virginia on Sept. 7. “I'm sure Dana's got new guys coming in, but they were some special guys, especially running the football. Dana does a great job. ... I'm sure he'll have his new guys schooled up to do it well again.”

That's what could make this Mountaineers team dangerous: the unknown.

“A year ago, we knew how good those guys were,” said Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads, whose Cyclones visit WVU on Nov. 30. “They were very scary. That was nothing but reaffirmed when we lined up and played them.

“That team a year ago, you knew you were going to have your hands full. This team might end up being better, but time will tell on that.”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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