Thursday, December 16, 2010
Holgorsen's OSU exit no cause for panic
By David Ubben
No assistant coach on Oklahoma State's staff was more indispensable than Dana Holgorsen. Country roads will take him to the place he belongs after OSU's bowl game. He can recruit top-tier talents like Noel Devine to West Virginia and win big with the Mountaineers. The last coach to do so moved on to Michigan as his next gig. West Virginia's been to the BCS twice since 2006 and played for a spot in the national title game at the end of the 2007 season.
"It's a good one. It's a real good one," Holgorsen called his situation on Tuesday night in the Tulsa World.
Agreed. Some jobs are not better than coordinating a winning offense. (Hi Vanderbilt!)
Plenty of jobs are. (That's you, Florida and West Virginia.)
But now, Holgorsen's exit from Stillwater should prompt at least unease in even the most optimistic of orange-wearing pistol firers. It shouldn't prompt much more.
Holgorsen's offense and play-calling prowess propelled Oklahoma State to a record-breaking season on the stat sheet and in the win column, notching 10 regular-season wins for the first time in school history. In the process, he became one of college coaching's hottest names.
The season was even more surprising considering almost every pundit pegged the Cowboys to stagger on from the exits of Dez Bryant and Zac Robinson to a finish in the bottom half of the Big 12 South. They finished tied atop the division for the first time ever.
It was a great accomplishment, but let's hold off on the parade in Holgorsen's honor.
Oklahoma State won nine games in each of the past two seasons. The 10 this season was a surprise, but the truth is simple: First-team All-Big 12 quarterback Brandon Weeden and Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver Justin Blackmon were criminally underrated to begin the season.
Kendall Hunter was even better this season than he was during his All-American campaign in 2008.
Would all three have duplicated those feats in 2010 without Holgorsen?
But, with apologies to another coach-in-exiting down South, they'd have still been pretty dadgum good.
Holgorsen isn't the guy making approximately 2,952 reads in the seconds following the snap on the field. He isn't the guy looking confident in the pocket and threading perfect passes down the sideline over perfect coverage from one of the Big 12's best cornerbacks from a cannon arm.
Holgorsen isn't the guy jumping over cornerbacks to haul in jump balls, and he's not the guy catching balls over the middle and daring defensive backs to try and tackle him. He wasn't the guy who amped up his work ethic during the spring and fall to become the player he was this fall.
And he certainly wasn't the guy who wouldn't let his legs stop churning to the tune of a second 1,500-yard season on the ground -- the first of which came while Holgorsen was still at Houston -- with what seemed like 1,500 broken tackles, too.
Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and Kendall Hunter did that.
Holgorsen helped. A lot. There's no doubt about that.
But the offense wouldn't have been inept without him. Just because a bunch of people said Oklahoma State was going to finish fifth in the South in 2010 doesn't mean that Holgorsen was the only reason the Cowboys didn't.
Weeden and Blackmon were far, far better than advertised, and could very well be back in 2011, likely better and certainly more experienced. Hunter, a senior, came back better than ever in 2010, and Oklahoma State has a handful of backs drooling at the opportunity to fill his shoes, like All-Big 12 freshman Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith, as well as incoming freshman Herschel Sims.
There are plenty more players who fit a spread scheme ready to go to Oklahoma State than any other. Coach Mike Gundy said that himself at Big 12 media days before the season, and it's true. Getting the right guy will ultimately decide if Oklahoma State takes a step back next year.
The Cowboys need a new coordinator who understands some form of the spread offense.
They need Weeden and Blackmon to stay in college and try to make a run at a Big 12 title in 2011.
They don't need to panic.