West Virginia's offense speaks a new language
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- A flick of his fingers. A wave of his arms. A brush across his chest.
Dana Holgorsen stands on the sideline at Mountaineer Field looking much like a third-base coach on a baseball field. Forget high-tech headsets or laminated signs; Holgorsen uses hand signals to relay messages to his offense.
"That's what I do," said Holgorsen, West Virginia's offensive coordinator. "That's how I communicate. I refer to it as sign language."
It hasn't taken Mountaineer players very long to figure out what he's saying -- either with his hands on the field or with his words in the film room.
Since joining West Virginia's staff in December, the head coach-in-waiting has installed a new offense that players say has been easy to learn. It might help that Holgorsen has had some practice teaching it. This spring marks the third time in four years the 39-year-old coach has taught his schemes to a new group of players.
"I'm probably a better teacher due to the fact that it makes more sense," he said. "... We feel like we've made adjustments to how we install it and how we call it due to it making sense to the guys who are listening to it."
Holgorsen became the University of Houston's offensive coordinator in 2008, where he installed a spread offense that features a variety of formations. He brought that system to Oklahoma State, where he served as offensive coordinator, in '10 before moving to Morgantown.
Holgorsen met with the offensive players over the winter and conducted film sessions where players watched different sets from Holgorsen's Oklahoma State team. During the spring practice period, which concludes next week, the key has been to run as many plays as possible, catch it all on camera and do most of the coaching in the film room.
"He actually sits there and explains things," said receiver Ivan McCartney. "He's a very, very, very smart coach, and we love him."
Holgorsen said the offense is simple, featuring fewer plays than most of his counterparts. But, he said, that's by design.
"If they feel like it's simple, we can start worrying about things that make them good players," he said. "Which is not thinking, but it's more about the technique and effort and repping and getting comfortable and timing and all the rest. We don't want them thinking, we want them playing good."
Most of Holgorsen's coaching stops since graduating college in the early 1990s have been in the South. While the corn-fed Iowa kid has developed a slight southern drawl, he is becoming a more effective communicator, he said. His offensive staff currently has a better grip on the system than his staffs had at this point in the past.
"Previous stops, I would have to meet the whole offense a lot, whereas now I don't have to do that as much due to these other guys being on the same page as me," he said.
He has quickly won over players on the team
"He knows a lot," quarterback Geno Smith said. "He definitely knows his stuff, and he has the track record to show it."
His no-nonsense style might not win him a humanitarian award anytime soon, but it has earned the respect of his players.
"Coach Holgorsen doesn't show too much emotion," receiver Tavon Austin said. "When you meet him, he shakes your hand and says 'Hope you're ready to catch some balls,' and that's about it. He walks his way, and you walk your way."
First Published April 20, 2011 12:00 am