Commentary

Summer Stock: West Virginia

With a new boss in town (sort of), the Mountaineers' offense looks ready to take off

Originally Published: May 18, 2011
By Ian Gordon | ESPN Insider
Geno SmithChris Graythen/Getty ImagesGeno Smith's numbers figure to soar in Dana Holgorsen's offense.

This is the third article in our Summer Stock series, a three-week look at the programs generating the most buzz coming out of spring practice.

West Virginia Mountaineers

For the past three seasons, the buzzword surrounding West Virginia's offense was "balance." After Rich Rodriguez took the spread option to the Michigan Wolverines in late 2007, head coach Bill Stewart and former offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen set out to make the Mountaineers' attack less reliant on the run. And they did: WVU, which ran the ball nearly 70 percent of the time during the Rich Rod era, has watched that number drop to 60 percent since the start of the 2008 season.

But with the offseason hiring of former Oklahoma State Cowboys offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen as OC and head-coach-in-waiting, "balance" is out -- and "up-tempo aerial assault" is in. In Holgorsen's last three gigs as a playcaller (at OSU, Houston and Texas Tech, starting in 2005), his teams have thrown the ball nearly 66 percent of the time and have never finished outside the national top three in passing yards per game or the top seven in total yards per game.

So, yeah, things will be different this year in Morgantown. (Geno Smith, we hope your arm is loose.) Even with all the changes, WVU looks set up to be a BCS contender, ranking 10th in Football Outsiders' Program FEI, a strong predictor for success in college football (see table at right). And while Stewart has been put in an all-time awkward spot, sharing the sideline with his replacement, the 53-year-old says he's excited about what Holgorsen (and his hand-picked set of new assistants) will bring to the program. "It's been a good, solid, professional transition," says Stewart, who joined Don Nehlen's staff in 2000 and later stayed on to coach under Rodriguez. "I know we're going to play very fast and very smart."


To read more about West Virginia's 2011 BCS chances, plus a look at the Mountaineers' potential breakout stars, become an ESPN Insider today.