MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - When last West Virginia's football team hit the field, it wasn't pretty.
For that matter, most of the last seven or eight times the Mountaineers showed what they could do, well, they didn't do much at all.
But after an agonizing second half of the 2013 season in which West Virginia endured a five-game losing streak and a rather embarrassing beat-down at the hands of Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl, the Mountaineers are finally able to start fresh.
Today marks the beginning of spring practice for the Mountaineers. Fifteen workouts spread widely over the next six weeks will be capped by the April 20 Gold-Blue game.
And if Dana Holgorsen is right, it's a chance to begin putting last year behind the Mountaineers.
"I think our players are extremely motivated at this point,'' the third-year West Virginia coach said. "Obviously, ending the season the way we ended and losing a lot of star power, we have a bunch of hungry kids that want to prove themselves.''
Indeed, there is more to this spring than simply putting last season in the rear-view mirror. The fact of the matter is, the Mountaineers have a lot of work to do in replacing that star power of which Holgorsen spoke.
Specifically, gone are quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, all expected to be taken in the first few rounds of the April NFL draft.
While replacing those three is a significant task, so too is replacing others, such as the entire middle of the offensive line and a handful of others. There's also the not-to-be-diminished mission of continuing to develop so many young players who got their feet wet a season ago.
"We played so many young guys last year that those guys are going to be different people this year,'' Holgorsen said. "We're excited about getting out there and spending a lot of time with these guys and seeing what's going on.''
There is no question that the biggest unknown that will be addressed in the next six weeks is the competition to replace those three huge playmakers on offense. Two-year backup Paul Millard and redshirt freshman Ford Childress lead the group challenging for Smith's job, but don't count out true freshman Chavas Rawlins, who enrolled in January and will be a part of the quarterback competition.