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Holgorsen still looking for answers

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - For the most part, Dana Holgorsen sounded like he could have been talking about the first game of the season or the first day of spring practice.

Yes, there's a big difference between the two, primarily the sense of urgency that goes with being just a few days away from the season opener.

Yet for all the work that has been done in 15 spring practices, a summer of conditioning and nearly a month of fall camp, West Virginia's coach on Tuesday still sounded as if his team was basically at square one.

"We've got to figure out what we do well,'' Holgorsen said. "We've got to figure out what our team's all about.''

Well, he has only a few more days to do that before West Virginia opens the season Saturday at home against William & Mary. The game kicks off at noon and will be televised nationally by the new Fox Sports 1.

Indeed, with an offense that must replace nearly all of its key parts, a defense that is trying to correct the myriad mistakes of a year ago and special teams that are under a new coordinator, West Virginia has some huge questions.

Certainly Holgorsen has figured out the answers to some of those, right? Doesn't he at least have some ideas about what his team might be able to do well?

"No clue,'' Holgorsen said. "And I wouldn't tell you if I knew anyway.''

That does, however, come with a caveat. Despite the loss of all that offensive talent and the need to correct the mistakes of 2012 on defense and special teams, figuring out what the Mountaineers might at least attempt to do is not rocket science.

"We're not going to reinvent the wheel here,'' Holgorsen said. "I mean, everybody knows what we do offensively and defensively. Special teams is a little bit more of a mystery.''

That's not to say that West Virginia won't look different. With a new quarterback - either Paul Millard or Clint Trickett - a deep stable of running backs and untested wide receivers, there are bound to be changes.

Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson has primarily the same cast of players and the same core defensive scheme, but he's also had months to adjust things. Ditto Joe DeForest, who is now the full-time special teams coordinator.

Take that deep running back corps, for instance. It is so deep that on Tuesday Holgorsen said that Andrew Buie, who led the team in rushing a year ago and had a 207-yard game against Texas, will redshirt. That leaves Charles Sims, Wendell Smallwood, Dreamius Smith and Dustin Garrison to handle the load.

How will that work out? Well, that's another wait-and-see proposition.

"Hot hand,'' Holgorsen said. "I don't know how it's going to go. When we hand the ball off, if it looks good and we're getting yards we'll probably do it again.

"Same thing in the pass game. If we're protecting fine and we're throwing it and completing balls, we'll do that more, as well.''

Throw in Cody Clay and Garrett Hope, too. Those two will play some fullback, some tight end, some H-back and even slot receiver.

"We have bodies back there that can give us snaps and I feel very good about it,'' Holgorsen said. "I have not been able to sit here for the last two years and say I felt good about it. We've always had about two or three and now I feel like we've got some depth that I'm excited about.''

But as far as seeing dramatic changes in schemes or philosophies, that's just not going to happen, Holgorsen said.

"You can turn the tape on from last year and figure out what we do defensively,'' Holgorsen said. "Is Keith going to have some different wrinkles to it? Yes. Are we going to develop some different wrinkles offensively based on what our personnel is? I would assume that we will. Special teams, it's not the same coordinator as it was last year, so are we going to do some different things with special teams? I would say there's probably a pretty good chance of that.

"But when you see what the product is out there, are you going to be able to notice distinct differences being a fan in the stands? I doubt that very much.''

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

 


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