I had a chance to talk with West Virginia offensive coordinator/head-coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen on Wednesday afternoon, and highlights from our conversation will make their way to a blog post near you soon.
But I thought I'd share an advance snippet from that talk regarding arguably the most important issue surrounding the Mountaineers this spring: the availability of quarterback Geno Smith.
Smith had yet another surgery on his troublesome left foot in January. That's the same foot injury that held him out of live drills last spring. It didn't hurt him or the Mountaineers too much, as Smith still had an outstanding sophomore campaign in his first year of starting. But now the team is installing Holgorsen's new offense, and every bit of work Smith can get in the preseason will help.
Holgorsen said Smith is to be out of his walking boot in about a month. West Virginia will begin its spring practice on March 28, the day classes resume after spring break.
"That Monday morning, we'll test him and see how much he can actually do," Holgorsen said. "I think as spring goes on, he'll be able to do more and more, which is good."
But Holgorsen said the Mountaineers will exercise caution with their star quarterback.
"He's supposed to be back, but we're not going to rush it," Holgorsen said. "That's what happened last year -- he tried to come back too quickly, and it never healed."
Smith played through a stress fracture most of last season, a fact that wasn't revealed until the Champs Sports Bowl. For the second straight spring, West Virginia has almost no experience behind him. Coley White, who took snaps when Smith couldn't last spring, is still around, but might not be the best fit for Holgorsen's style. The Mountaineers also brought in two freshmen early enrollees in Brian Athey and Paul Millard, whom Holgorsen described as "two 6-foot-3, good-looking kids who've thrown the ball a bunch. But you never know how those guys are going to develop."
Holgorsen is trying to teach Smith his system now through meetings and film work in the limited time coaches can spend with players under NCAA rules. I asked him if that kind of work would do the job if Smith once again must spend most of spring contact work on the sidelines.
"Not as well as it be would be if he were actually doing the reps," he said. "Right now and over the next five weeks, it's all mental reps. Hopefully during the five weeks of spring, he'll be learning from actual trial and error."