MORGANTOWN - West Virginia wasn't 15 minutes into its first spring football practice Sunday when newly-appointed offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson watched player after player drop balls during a receivers drill.
"That's the way to go,'' Dawson said sarcastically. "Way to catch the ball.''
It didn't really faze Dawson, probably for a couple of reasons.
First, it was March 11, not Aug. 11. If there's a drop or two - or 10 - in the first 15 minutes of what amounts to the very early stages of the 2012 season, well, there might be a little bit of time to fix what's wrong.
The second reason? Well, the guys dropping balls weren't wearing No. 1 or No. 3 or any other familiar digits. It wasn't Tavon Austin dropping passes or Stedman Bailey or anyone who figures to play a role in the offense next season.
No, those guys were all pretty much lined up and ready to pick up where they left off in West Virginia's 70-33 Orange Bowl win over Clemson.
Or at least that's what Dawson and head coach Dana Holgorsen hope. This is a chance for an offense that came together at just the right time last season to finally get a head start and a jump on the second time around.
"Offensively, we've got nine starters back and it's going to make a whole lot more sense to us offensively now,'' Holgorsen said. "Having that many starters back, it's more about developing some depth and getting the starters a year better.
"Everything we do makes sense. We've got goals that we want to improve on, obviously, but it's more about just getting these guys better at what they're doing.''
Sunday that process began with a two-hour-plus workout in perfect, sunny conditions at Mountaineer Field. It was the first of 15 spring practices permitted by the NCAA. West Virginia will spread its out over six weeks, concluding with the Gold-Blue scrimmage on April 21.
The biggest change in West Virginia's offense this spring and next season might actually be on the sidelines, where Dawson has officially been named the offensive coordinator. And that, quite frankly, is not a change at all.
Holgorsen will still have his ever-present hand in the offense and he will still call the plays. And Holgorsen and Dawson are always pretty much on the same page when it comes to the direction the offense needs to take.
For instance, Dawson was asked if he thought he and Holgorsen would add elements to the offense now that the players have been in the system for a year and have seemingly mastered the basics.