Coach Dana Holgorsen arrives at West Virginia amidst a heap of fanfare from some of the top minds in college football. ESPN.com’s Bruce Feldman praises the first-year West Virginia head coach, “Dana Holgorsen is the sharpest offensive mind working in college football right now. As soon as I heard he was taking over the WVU offense, I was convinced that his QB—Geno Smith—was going to be in Heisman Trophy contention… He is that kind of impact coach.” Matt Hayes of Sporting News calls him “a terrific coach whose offensive system will have defenses in the Big East scrambling for years.”The media has even pegged Holgorsen’s Mountaineers as the class of the BIG EAST. West Virginia fans are hoping that the product on the field will match the praise in the press, leading to a BIG EAST Championship being taken home down them country roads.
BIG EAST Ranks
Total Offense- 372.7 ypg (2nd)
Scoring Offense- 25.2 ppg (5th)
Point of Examination: As evidenced by Feldman quote above, QB Geno Smith is already getting some “sleeper” Heisman buzz due. As a sophomore last season, Smith led the BIG EAST in passing efficiency and was second in the conference in passing yards per game. Expect those numbers to get even better—quarterbacks in a Holgorsen offense always get better. Also, Smith will be helped out by the amazing depth that the Mountaineers will have at running back this season. Trey Johnson, Vernard Roberts, Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison–all athletically gifted but inexperienced—are competing for that primary tailback spot. While the running back who is most effective in the passing game (blocking and receiving) will likely see first action, I expect Buie to be the most explosive and effective runner over the course of the season.
BIG EAST Ranks
Total Defense- 261.5 ypg (1st)
Scoring Defense- 13.5 ppg (1st)
Point of Examination: For the amount of publicity that West Virginia’s offense received this offseason, you would think that that was the side of the ball where the Mountaineers were most dominant a year ago. That distinction, however, belongs to the Mountaineer defense that statistically dominated the BIG EAST. At the BIG EAST Media Day, Hologorsen himself admitted to being more impressed with the speed and ability of his defense, led by versatile playmaker, CB Keith Tandy, and pass rushing specialist DE Bruce Irvin. Defensive Coordinator Jeff Casteel, who should be garnering some attention for head coaching vacancies in the near future, has implemented his unorthodox 3-3-5 scheme, producing largely successful results in Morgantown.
With the track record of offensive output by Holgorsen’s teams, one might expect that the job of the conference’s top-ranked defense a year ago has gotten even easier. Not so fast—Dave Hickman of the Charleston Gazette offers evidence to the contrary. Nevertheless, between Holgorsen and Casteel, West Virginia has two of the most innovative minds in college football as architects of their offensive and defensive schemes—a fact that has the folks in Morgantown feeling like they’re on top of the mountain.