New-look offense could be on tap for WVU

June, 24, 2013
6/24/13
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Dana Holgorsen has a reputation as a coach who loves to throw it on every down, but since leaving Case Keenum and Houston behind, that's been far from the case.

His Cougars offenses ran the ball on 36.8 percent of their downs in 2008 and even less (35.3 percent) in 2009 with Case Keenum at the helm. That's what happens when you've got a player like Keenum capable of throwing for more yards than any quarterback in college football history.

At West Virginia this season, though, we might see the most run-based offense ever with Holgorsen as a playcaller. This will be a very, very different season than anything Holgorsen's ever experienced.

For one, West Virginia's strength and experience on offense lies at running back, something he's never had. Adding Houston transfer Charles Sims, who ran for 800 yards in consecutive seasons, gives West Virginia four quality running backs, with juco transfer Dreamius Smith a fellow newcomer alongside Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison, who both have 700-yard rushing seasons as Mountaineers.

West Virginia ran the ball 46.9 percent of the time last season, the most ever for an offense with Holgorsen calling the plays. That's an amazing number with so much talent in the passing game with Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, but 73 of those carries went to Austin.

This season, West Virginia will be without its top three receivers and breaking in a new quarterback whose identity may not be known until a couple of weeks before the season. Regardless of whether Clint Trickett, Ford Childress or Paul Millard wins the job, they're guaranteed to have very little experience on the field. In Childress' case, he has exactly none.

Believe it or not, Holgorsen has never had to deal with a quarterback competition as a play-calling offensive coordinator or head coach. Keenum was the clear starter at Houston when Holgorsen came aboard, and Alex Cate's transfer cleared the way for Brandon Weeden to be the clear incumbent at Oklahoma State when Mike Gundy hired him in 2010. That team also had a bona fide star at running back in Kendall Hunter, who inspired Holgorsen to run the ball on 45.8 percent of snaps and Hunter to rack up 1,548 rushing yards.

This quarterback uncertainty is new territory, but he knows exactly what he's got at running back, and now's as good a time as ever for the Mountaineers to lean on that spot.

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