MORGANTOWN - Shannon Dawson is in the midst of a 12-day window in which he has a chance to sit back and evaluate just where it is the West Virginia offense he is charged with coordinating stands after 40 percent of spring drills.
But the truth is he doesn't really know, and he's not likely to know even after April 21 when the Mountaineers finish practice.
"It's hard in the spring, it really is,'' Dawson said. "I've never had a spring where I felt like we really dominated the defense or beat them. The bottom line is you're going against the same players every day and it gets to the point where you know each other so well it's kind of a butting-of-the-heads thing.
"We'll win one day, they'll win the next day and it's a give-and-take.''
Logic seems to dictate that West Virginia's offense should be light years ahead of the defense at this point. After all, this is an offense that scored 70 points the last time it was on the field, against Clemson in the Orange Bowl, and has virtually all of its important pieces back.
The defense, meanwhile, is not only installing a new scheme for the first time in a decade under a new set of coaches, but must also replace guys like Julian Miller, Bruce Irvin and Najee Goode, and is playing without injured safety Terence Garvin.
It doesn't always work that way, though.
"You have to take into account what the defense is installing that day and what we're installing that day. There's a lot to take into account,'' Dawson said. "It's not like we're sitting there game-planning them or they're sitting there game-planning us. We're both trying to install things and sometimes it matches up where we've got plays that are great versus what they do and we're going to look good. And sometimes the opposite happens and it's going to look like crap. That's just the way it is.''
Still, there is a benefit even on those days when the offense looks horrid. Remember, while this is a group that put up staggering numbers in the bowl game, it also generated all of 13 points the game before at South Florida (WVU scored 30, but got 14 on an interception return and a kickoff return and a field goal after losing yardage following a blocked punt).
So if Dawson has a chance to nudge the offense a bit after one of those bad days, all the better.
"You take those opportunities to take the kids back down, get their heads back down and their egos back down,'' Dawson said. "Even though I might know there's outside factors involved in it, the bottom line is that in our offense we expect to execute versus anything.''
That includes against a defense that might know everything from signals to specific plays.