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Changes loom over West Virginia

| Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010

ORLANDO, Fla. — Before the Champs Sports Bowl, West Virginia players wouldn't talk about any coaching changes looming for next season.

After the Mountaineers' 23-7 loss to N.C. State on Tuesday, those tight-lipped players opened up. And they had plenty to tell.

"We don't have a say over it because football is the sport that makes all the money," said sophomore running back Shawne Alston, who added that many of his teammates had mixed emotions about the changes. "There's always a business side to it."

Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jeff Mullen and offensive line coach Dave Johnson have coached their final game at West Virginia. Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen was named offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach for 2011; Mullen and Johnson were not retained.

As coach-in-waiting, Holgorsen has full control over the offensive coaching staff but may keep one or two assistants. He is slated to take over in 2012; Bill Stewart will move to another position in the athletic department.

"(Athletic director Oliver Luck) came in ... and made his decision," junior starting left tackle Don Barclay said. "As players, we're going to move on with that decision and do the best we can. We just can't give up."

Stewart wouldn't comment on the team's future, other than saying he told players he would see them Jan. 9 when the team reconvenes.

"I don't mean to be a wise guy, but I haven't had much time to think about next year," he said. "We'll start preparation for 2011 then."

Something West Virginia kept quiet until Tuesday also could affect next season. Sophomore quarterback Geno Smith will have a third surgery on his foot in as many years, trainer Dave Kerns confirmed.

In July, Smith suffered a nonunion fracture of his left foot -- the same bone he had surgery on in January -- and may not be full strength for the second consecutive year during spring practice. Smith said Wednesday on Twitter that he is having surgery but added that he would not miss spring practice.

West Virginia heads into the offseason with a bowl loss for the second time in as many seasons. The Mountaineers also have failed to win 10 games for three straight seasons.

"We have the talent to go undefeated and win a national championship," Alston said. "We should be in the top 10 in the country easy, because we have the talent."

West Virginia loses 10 starters next season and could be without junior safety Robert Sands, who may opt for the NFL Draft. ESPN rates him the No. 3 safety in the country. Sands has not made a decision but has sent the league an evaluation request.

With a new offense coming, the players know to expect the unexpected.

"Nothing's guaranteed," Barclay said. "You've got to come out here and win a starting spot all over again and then go from there."

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