MORGANTOWN - Daron Roberts is new to Dana Holgorsen's offense. West Virginia's first-year wide receivers coach had never really been exposed to it before he was hired last spring.
It didn't take him long, though, to figure things out because there's really not that much to master. Holgorsen prides himself on having simplified the scheme to the point where it can be taught in three days. Everything beyond that is just reinforcement and refinement.
The idea, of course, is to make it as simple as possible to learn and then players can simply go out and concentrate on making plays.
"It really is easy to learn,'' Roberts said. "I tell [the wide receivers], 'If you can't get this then you're going to have some issues in life.' "
The thing is, while the offense is simple to learn it is far from easy to defend, witness the success Holgorsen has had with it through stops at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State. Stat of the day: In West Virginia's 100-plus years of playing college football, the Mountaineers have only twice scored as many as 500 points in a season - a record 515 in 2007 and 505 the year before. Only four other times has WVU scored even 400 points in a season. And the most total yards a West Virginia team has ever amassed in a season was 5,998 yards in 2006.
Holgorsen's last four offenses have averaged 556 points. And the lowest total offense output during that span was 6,763 yards last season at OSU. A year before at Houston, the Cougars were just 113 yards shy of 8,000 yards.
Not bad for a guy who learned at the feet of Mike Leach, who likes to say that he really runs only about seven plays.
"I think that's always been an exaggeration,'' Holgorsen said. "We have more than seven plays, but you don't want to have too much.''
Well, whether it's seven or 17 or even 27 or 37, the number of plays certainly isn't what makes Holgorsen's offense so frustrating to defend. That comes from formations.
Leach, for whom Holgorsen worked at Texas Tech, also liked to say he could run his seven plays out of roughly 200 different formations. And while 200 may be an exaggeration, the theory is one which Holgorsen has embraced.
"It just makes them cover the whole field,'' Holgorsen said. "The more formations you're in, the more field they've got to cover.''
The idea, of course, is not new. Shoot, Don Nehlen wasn't much different when he was coaching in the 1980s. How many times did Major Harris run the freeze option - slide down the line of scrimmage, almost always to the right, take a half step into the line as if he was running to freeze the defense and then step back to launch a pass down field - out of a variety of different formations? Even Nehlen's much-ridiculed draw plays were often a surprise because of where the personnel lined up.
But coaches today have taken the philosophy to a different level by lining up in every formation possible to run an infinite number of plays. Holgorsen has refined it even more so by expanding the number of formations and reducing the number of plays.