During his first season coaching the Mountaineers in the Big 12, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen had the luxury of getting the ball to three of the country’s most dynamic offensive weapons to keep up with a wide-open and fast-paced offensive league.
But just because quarterback Geno Smith and wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey now call the NFL home does not mean that Holgorsen is working on waving the white flag instead of lighting up the scoreboard.
“I haven’t lost any sleep over Tavon and Stedman moving to the NFL,” said Holgorsen of the two wideouts who left Morgantown, W.Va., early. “We don’t hold anybody back. That’s not the first time we’ve lost receivers to the NFL and been able to line up next year and execute our offense.”
In order to do that in 2013, Holgorsen figures to shift gears and turn from relying on a wildly successful passing game to a potentially dynamic running game that features some of the best depth in the conference.
In addition to returning threats Andrew Buie (851 yards and 7 touchdowns on 179 carries in 2012) and Dustin Garrison (213, 2, 46), the Mountaineers welcome former Kansas signee Dreamius Smith from the junior-college ranks and former Houston Cougar Charles Sims via transfer.
“I do feel good about where we’re at running back-wise,” said Holgorsen, whose team ranked fifth in the Big 12 in rushing in 2012 with 172 yards per game. “We’ve got capable guys, (and we are) as deep there as we’ve ever been, that’s for certain.”
While Buie, Garrison and Smith seem to be more well-known commodities, Sims may be the biggest wildcard in the bunch. During his two years as the offensive coordinator under Kevin Sumlin at Houston (2008-09), Holgorsen helped recruit Sims. So he knows the kind of player he’s getting. And although he believes the fifth-year senior will help the Mountaineers tremendously, he’s not putting all of his footballs in Sims’ locker.
“I didn’t promise him anything,” said Holgorsen of Sims. “He knows what I’m all about. He knows how I coach. He knows what our offense is about. So we need some playmakers on offense, after losing, I think, 90 percent of our production last year or whatever that crazy number is. He knew he’d be able to come in and fit in and get an opportunity to play in the Big 12. That was his motive.”
Questions remain at both quarterback — junior transfer Clint Trickett (Florida State), junior back-up Paul Millard and red-shirt freshman Ford Childress enter camp battling for the No. 1 spot — and on defense, but Holgorsen said he expected his team to be more comfortable during its second season in the Big 12.
“I think everybody’s pretty much in the same boat,” said Holgorsen, alluding to questions at QB for several Big 12 teams. “Everybody’s got the ingredients to win. It’s how you develop them, and it’s catching some breaks that win you some games.”