Here is Part II of my conversation with West Virginia offensive coordinator/head-coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen. You can read Part I here.
How excited do you get when you see what Tavon Austin did last year and all the ways you can use him?
Dana Holgorsen: He reminds me of those guys who we had at Houston, who were smaller, real fast, shaky, shifty guys. You try to get guys like those the ball as much as you possibly can. You want to play big people who are productive, yeah, but you also want to have fast people who are productive. So we'll be able to rotate all those guys in there, and the guys who pick it up, learn it, be productive and do the right thing are the ones who'll play.
Does your system require a lot of depth at receiver?
DH: Yeah, it does. We need to be able to play about eight guys. I don't know if we're going to play 50 percent one guy and 50 percent the other, but you need two people per position. So we need about eight receivers. I think we've got some quality receivers. I just don't know if we've got very many of them.
Ivan McCartney is a guy who's tantalizing with his talent, though he didn't play much as a freshman. What have you seen out of him so far?
DH: His high school film speaks for itself. That doesn't mean he can adjust to the next level. There are guys that adjust to the next level quickly, and there are guys that don't. I mean, Justin Blackmon at Oklahoma State, it took him until his third year before he was a big-time guy. A guy like Wes Welker flipped the switch immediately, played as a true freshman and had a bunch of success. You never know about these kids. The two running backs we signed, Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison, both were extremely productive high school kids. But you're not going to know if they're able to make that adjustment quickly or if it will take some time until they get here.
As far as the offensive line, do you have to teach new techniques with this system?
DH: On the offensive line, regardless of what offense you're in, there's a lot of carryover with technique. It's all about the mental aspect of how you call things, how you identify things, how you identify fronts, how you target things. All stuff that's the mental aspect of it. Again, it goes back to the next five weeks of teaching, and then when we line up in the spring, it's about repping, repping, repping and playing a lot of football.
How about the type of offensive linemen you want? Do you like them more mobile, not as heavy, anything like that?
DH: It's about being productive. We've had 280-pound linemen who were good, and we've had 380-pound linemen who were good. [Offensive line coach] Bill Bedenbaugh is a guy who's been doing this a long time at this level, the last 12 years, and he does a good job with it. We're on the same page, which will make it exciting to get those guys ready to go. We have four of the five coming back and some young guys who redshirted. So I think we'll be OK at that spot. It's just a matter of keeping them healthy and getting them ready to go.
You have a lot of guys you're very familiar with on the offensive staff. How much will that help you implement things quickly?
DH: It will be big, because everybody understands. There is not a lot of teaching guys what to do, just a lot of figuring out the best way to do it. If I need to get up and talk to the media or talk to boosters, those guys can stay in that room and keep the meetings rolling because they know how it's supposed to look and how it's supposed to work. I'm excited to have those guys here so I don't have to teach them what to do.
There seem to be very high expectations for you and your offense right away from Mountaineers fans. Do you get a sense of that?
DH: I expect to be successful, too. I've been to 11 straight bowl games and have had productive offenses the last 11 years. My expectations aren't any different from what the general public and general perception is for the whole football team. They've won 60 games here in the last 6 years, so expectations are high. But so are the expectations of this offensive staff. We're going to line up and do our best.
This is also a transition year for you until you become head coach. How much time will you spend learning the things a head coach needs to know?
DH: I've been under some pretty good head coaches like Mike Leach and Kevin Sumlin, and Bill Stewart has had some success the last three years. The main thing is, Bill Stewart cares about this university and cares about this state; he wants to see this place continue to be successful and continue to grow. So I'll just learn from him about what the lay of the land is around here and how things work, and get to a point where I understand the importance of West Virginia football to whole state. And he will graciously help me understand that.
There will be a whole lot written and said about the relationship between you and Bill Stewart. How is that working out so far after a couple of months on the job together?
DH: Good. Everybody's goal in this building is to win games. There's only one way to do that, and that's to work hard and get along and be on the same page and work toward the same goal. This game is competitive and hard and a lot of people are doing the same thing, so you've got to be on the same page from top to bottom.
You've coached against some of the current Big East head coaches, like Todd Graham at Pitt and Skip Holtz at South Florida. It seems like, with the installment of some new offenses and programs on the rise, the league looks like it could be pretty good the next couple of years. How do you see it?
DH: I tell you, it will be a bunch of fun. We've got guys doing the right things, everybody in the Big East is doing the right thing and it will be extremely competitive. One of the things that's very exciting about this opportunity is that it's going to be very competitive. I don't think there will be this tremendous mountain there was when I was in the Big 12 with the likes of Texas and Oklahoma. There's not that dominant team. You look at who's won the Big East the last eight years, and it's been different teams. So it's competitive from top to bottom, and everybody has a chance to get it done.
You talked about learning what West Virginia football means to the state. Have you gotten a sense of that yet from being around there?
DH: It just has everything to do with no professional sports. West Virginia University is what the state is all about. It's the only show in the whole state. Where I was at in Texas, you had professional sports and a whole bunch of colleges, so the state was broken up. Oklahoma was almost divided in half with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. In Houston, you had professional sports, you had the Texas thing and the A&M thing. The difference is, where I've been everybody's loyalty was extremely scattered. Here, it's the single entity for the whole state. It's easy to feel that. It's very obvious.
You've moved around a bit the last few years. How excited are you for the opportunity to stay in one spot now for a while?
DH: I've enjoyed every job I've been at. I was at Texas Tech for eight years and liked it there. I was at Houston for two years and really enjoyed it. I wasn't at Oklahoma State very long, but the kids were great and we won games and had success. I'm excited about the opportunity to be here for a long time. So every time we recruit kids, deal with the players on the team, get out in the community and the state -- all that stuff, every decision we make is going to influence what happens five years from now. It's exciting to be able to do things that you know are going to take place over the next several years.
What kind of crash course did you get in recruiting the East Coast these past few weeks?
DH: The geography is different, but we've got guys on staff who have recruited different parts of this country. You've got to recruit Ohio, you've got to recruit Pennsylvania, you've got to take care of your home state, obviously. I've been up and down the East Coast, which is incredibly populated. But we've got nine guys on staff who get out and find guys and recruit 'em, and it's all about building relationships and selling them on this university.
Will you continue to recruit Texas because of your ties there?
DH: Yeah, especially with TCU coming in. There are probably 100-to-115 schools in the state of Texas trying to get the same guys. It's incredibly populated and has great football. And you can get on an airplane in Houston or get on an airplane in Dallas, and kids are going all over the country. West Virginia is no different; if we can get them on an airplane and get them here, that's where all of my ties are. The staff I've brought with me have all recruited Texas. So we'll recruit it just like everybody else is.
I would imagine your style of play and the numbers your guys put up make recruits notice.
DH: Yeah, and the defense being in the top five in the country the last few years, that's pretty appealing as well.