MORGANTOWN - It has been 10 full years now that West Virginia has employed a spread offense. It has been tweaked a bit over the years through the regimes of Rich Rodriguez and Bill Stewart, but the basic philosophy has remained the same.
Beginning Wednesday when the Mountaineers open spring practice, all of that changes.
How dramatically it changes, perhaps, remains to be seen. After all, new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen admits, to a point, that even he doesn't know what the finished product for 2011 will be because he will adapt somewhat to the personnel available to him.
"Year one is going to be, 'What do we have, what are we good at and what do we have to do to win?'" Holgorsen said shortly after he was hired. "You'd better take what you've got and get good at something.''
Listen to Holgorsen's quarterbacks coach, though, and you get the distinct idea that even the traditional idea of the spread offense is out. OK, so perhaps that's nit-picking with terminology, but listening to the way Shannon Dawson explains it, the changes are going to be dramatic.
You can even throw out the word spread.
"The term 'spread' is thrown around a little too much because people look at offenses and if you're in a four-receiver set, everybody labels it a spread offense,'' Dawson said. "You can throw that term out. I don't think it's a very good term because most people spread it out to run it.''
That's exactly what West Virginia has done for the better part of the last decade (WVU's season rushing leader over the past 10 seasons has averaged 132 yards per game), but here's the tip-off that all of that is about to change:
"Look at the stats of people around the country that run spread offenses. Take Florida, for example,'' Dawson said. "They run a four-receiver set, too, but they throw the ball 20-to-25 times a game. We're going to throw that in a half.''
Now that's going to be a change.
"Our offense is a pass-first offense. And then we run the football,'' Dawson said. "We're going to make them take away the pass first, and then it opens up the run. I think everybody else is the complete opposite. They're going to run and then when they take away the run they're going to throw it.''
To see what Holgorsen and Dawson have in mind, one needs only to check what the two did a year ago at two schools at two different levels.
Dawson was the offensive coordinator at Stephen F. Austin in Texas, where the Lumberjacks led the FCS in passing yards per game and ran for an average of only 80.8 yards. His offense averaged 36.2 points, 442.9 total yards and the average passing numbers for a single game last season were 30-of-50 for 362 yards. His quarterbacks - starter Jeremy Moses threw for over 13,000 career yards and completed more passes than anyone in FCS history - threw 35 touchdown passes and just 10 interceptions.