West Virginia's Unique Setup
By Jim Ashley
There is a new attitude and new era underway in Morgantown.
Back on November 17, 2010, current WVU Football Head Coach Bill Stewart signed a renegotiated, re-structured contract with Director of Athletics Oliver Luck to create one of the strangest situations in college football. In the contract, Stewart agreed to stay on for one more season as head coach, step down after the 2011 season, and give way to current offensive coordinator, Dana Holgorsen, to take over as the head man. The contract also calls for Stewart to be given an administrative job at WVU after he steps down as head coach following the 2011 season.
Holgorsen was flown into town the next week (during the students Thanksgiving Break) and was shown around town and the campus. Eventually, rival school, Pittsburgh,began looking for a coach in December after they terminated the services of Dave Wannstedt for continued poor performance on the field (despite winning a share of the Big East championship), as well as disciplinary problems off the field for his players.
That's when Luck had to act fast; he went ahead and signed Holgorsen quicker than he wanted to, hoping he could do that after the bowl game. As a result of Holgorsen's signing, he was given full control of the offense, including hiring and firing of coaching staff. That meant former offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen and offensive line coach Dave Johnson (the two most criticized coaches by the fans) were given their pink slips. Holgorsen completely re-did the entire offensive coaching staff.
The Holgorsen signing quickly became a huge distraction for the football team. Many in the statewide (and national) media criticized the hiring, wondering why they would fire a coach that consistently won nine games every season. The signing also divided the Mountaineer fanbase. While many overwhelmingly supported the signing, there were some that were very upset with the fact that Stewart wasn't going to be coaching longer.
Stewart, despite not informing his offensive staff that they were not going to be retained, has been the consummate professional despite his lame-duck status.
The transition in Morgantown has been a smooth one so far. Holgorsen has been working with the offense, and current Defensive Coordinator Jeff Casteel has been working with the defense. At the spring game on Friday, April 29th, the new offense was unveiled to the public for the first time, and did not disappoint. Quarterback Geno Smith threw for 388 yards on 26-of-37 passes with four touchdowns, and the (presumed) backup QB Freshman Paul Millard threw for 253 yards on 18-of-30 passes, one interception and two touchdowns.
Leading all receivers was Stedman Bailey (Smith's teammate at Miramar High School) with 182 yards and three touchdowns. Junior Tavon Austin racked up 83 yards and a touchdown, former tight end (now inside receiver) senior Tyler Urban got 28 yards and a touchdown, and sophomore Trey Johnson gained 65 yards and a touchdown. Other stars in the receiving category were redshirt senior Willie Milhous with 98 yards, and walk-on redshirt junior Ryan Nehlen with 79 yards.
In rushing, sophomore Trey Johnson got 1 rushing touchdown and 57 yards, but the leader in rushing was freshman Vernard Roberts with 64 yards. Johnson and Roberts got increased time this spring because juniors Shawne Alston and Ryan Clarke were dealing with injuries.
At the time being, all appears to be going well at the Puskar Center as the coaching transition takes place.