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West Virginia prepares for high-flying spring

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By Tony Dobies
Thursday, March 3, 2011

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia's offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen has made it clear during his first two months on the job that he will have his stamp on this year's team.

The former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator said he and his assistants have all but scrapped the films of last season's offense and have begun installing his quick, no-huddle, pass-happy attack.

"I didn't watch any film on what West Virginia did last year because that's not my offense," Holgorsen said. "I don't care what it looked like last year."

Since national signing day in early February, Holgorsen's new assistants — running backs coach Robert Gillespie, offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and inside receivers coach Shannon Dawson — have shown players film from Holgorsen's offense while he was with the Cowboys and at Houston.

"As we got into one-on-one time, you get to know people better," Holgorsen said. "Once we've done that, it's been better."

The Mountaineers open spring practice March 28 with an offense that doesn't use a fullback or tight end as often as the Mountaineers did in 2010. The team's spring game is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 29, a Friday night exhibition for the second consecutive year.

"We want to play with a tempo. That's who we're going to be," West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said. "We want to be faster than fast."

Spring practice was pushed back to help the offensive assistants get to know the players and allow players to familiarize themselves with the offense, Holgorsen said. He compared it to grade school.

But his system can be learned in a few days, Holgorsen said.

"We've got this offense to the point that it will make sense to the kids by the end of spring ball," he said. "Then it's up to them to keep working at it. This offense isn't hard to learn. It's not hard to grasp, and it's not hard to retain. But that doesn't make you good. What makes you good is players meshing together."

It hasn't been difficult for players to buy in, Holgorsen said, because the film and statistics speak for themselves. In his only year at Oklahoma State, the offensive finished third nationally in scoring (44.23 points per game) and third in total offense (520.23 yards per game).

"If they want that to be them, then they probably should buy in and try to get good at it," Holgorsen said. "It's not just going to happen. They've got to give effort and work at it."

Holgorsen told his players that every position is up for grabs, even quarterback, where starter Geno Smith is considered to be an all-Big East candidate. Holgorsen later said he expects Smith to start but that most positions are wide open.

"We'll see what they've got in the spring," Holgorsen said.

Smith was wearing a walking boot on his left foot after surgery in January but anticipates practicing without problems during spring camp.

"From what I'm told, I'm full-go when spring gets here," Smith said. "It's extremely important for me to be out there with those guys as a leader."

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