WVU assistants adjust to new game-day chores
MORGANTOWN - Truth be told, things aren't much different among West Virginia's offensive coaches now that titles have been settled upon.
Yes, Shannon Dawson is now the offensive coordinator in addition to coaching the receivers. But really, no one is being fooled into thinking that anyone but head coach Dana Holgorsen has the reins of the offense, least of all Dawson.
"It's just like it was last year,'' Dawson said. "I can make all the suggestions I want, but he's still got the final say.''
That doesn't mean, though, that there won't be changes to how WVU's offensive coaches operate, especially on game day.
When the No. 11 Mountaineers open their season at home against Marshall on Saturday, Dawson will be closer to the action. He will be back on the field after spending last season in the press box.
And Dawson couldn't be happier.
"It's where I probably should be,'' he said.
Last year, Dawson would talk to running backs coach Robert Gillespie from the press box and Gillespie, aside from addressing his backs, would try to squeeze in some time with the receivers. Dawson could also sometimes talk to his receivers directly, but only one at a time with limited time between series. And if Holgorsen needed to talk to the entire offense he would have to essentially leave the game to do it.
"The biggest change will be that. I'll have the whole group and I'll be able to stand in front of them, answer questions and make adjustments,'' Dawson said. "And in my opinion that's a significant difference.''
This year, there will be only one full-time assistant coach from the offensive side in the press box, which is unusual. Quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital will be upstairs, along with graduate assistant Vince Cashdollar. A third person will be with them to chart plays and tendencies.
Cashdollar's direct line of communication will be with offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. Spavital will be linked with Holgorsen, Dawson and Gillespie.
The way Dawson figures it, the more face time all the coaches can get with the players during games the better. Holgorsen doesn't have time to dip his hand into everything.
"Really what changes is the communication with the skill guys in between drives,'' Dawson said. "Whenever [the offense is] off the field, the game doesn't stop for [Holgorsen]. He's got special teams to watch over, defense, flow of the game type stuff. He doesn't have a lot of time to talk to players.
"I think an important thing is listening to the players. They're the ones out there. They come off to the sideline and tell us things and, like I told them the other day, we have to trust each other. If Tavon [Austin] comes off and says, 'Coach, we need to do this, this and this,' we need to do it. He's out there. He sees it.''
That interaction is invaluable, and it's something that can't be done on a headset.
"You get to look in people's eyes and you get to see exactly how the flow of the game's going,'' Dawson said. "If we're having a lull, I need to be extremely positive and lift those guys up and tell them, 'Hey, forget about it,' and just understand the flow of the game. It's hard to do from the box when you're sitting there trying to get a collective opinion of a group and you can't look them in the eye and read body language and stuff like that.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.