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A Spring Look At West Virginia Football
May 11, 2012
By Wendell Barnhouse |
Big 12 Correspondent

2011: 10-3 overall, 5-2 in Big East Conference, won Orange Bowl.
Starters returning: Offense 8, defense 6.

West Virginia went through spring practice knowing that when the 2012 season starts in September, the football program will enter a brave new world. The Mountaineers appear perfectly position to make a big splash.

Their second-year coach is confident that his team will be able to make a smooth transition from the Big East to the Big 12.

"We have as good a chance to win it as anybody else," Dana Holgorsen told "I just know what we're getting into. I'm very familiar with what every team does and I've hired a lot of coaches who understand how things work in the Big 12 and what schemes are and what players are like and what the atmospheres are like."

Holgorsen is familiar with making moves. He was at Texas Tech, then at Houston, then at Oklahoma State and now at West Virginia. At his last two stops - Houston and Oklahoma State - he worked with quarterbacks (Case Keenum) and (Brandon Weeden) who last season threw for for more yards than any QB in college football.

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith was third behind those two, throwing for 4,385 yards, 31 touchdowns and seven interceptions in his first season in Holgorsen's offense. Holgorsen said the second season in his up-tempo, spread attack is always easier. The 6-3, 215-pound Smith appears to be a perfect quarterback to put up big numbers in the Big 12.

"He expects to be successful, going back to his high school career," Holgorsen said of Smith. "Three years as a starting quarterback, very few losses, state championship. He can will his team to win, and has proven to do that the two years that he's been a starter."

The West Virginia offense has plenty of talent to support Smith. Perhaps the best is receiver Tavon Austin. A former running back, Austin had a record-setting Orange Bowl performance - 12 receptions, four touchdowns and 123 yards (plus 117 yards on kick returns). For the season, Austin had 101 receptions for 1,186 yards. But Holgorsen expects even more.

"I can't tell you how special I think Tavon Austin is," he said. "He's one of the most dynamic guys I've coached. We should get a little bit more out of him next year than we did this year. ... Now he's playing fast all the time. He looks like a totally different guy, which is obviously exciting."

Who's missing
Linebacker Najee Goode, defensive end Bruce Irvin, defensive end Julian Miller, defensive back Keith Tandy, defensive back Eain Smith.

The replacements
Left tackle Quinton Spain, offensive tackle Nick Kindler, defensive back Matt Moro, defensive back Avery Williams, defensive back Karl Joseph, receiver Jordan Thompson

Spring buzz
When Jeff Casteel left the Mountaineers to rejoin former West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez in Arizona, he took his 3-3-5 defense with him. Holgorsen hired Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson to share the defensive coordinator job. DeForest coached with Holgorsen at Oklahoma State in 2010. West Virginia's defenders spent the spring adjusting to a 3-4-4 defensive alignment.

Junior Tyler Anderson spent his first two seasons at linebacker, making 17 tackles. With West Virginia is missing its top two pass rushers, Anderson has bulked up to 244 pounds and figures to be in the mix at defensive end. "Everything comes with speed," Anderson said. "You have to have speed for everything and to move linemen, you have to use your speed. With my weight and speed, I feel like I have a good chance."

Senior cornerback Pat Miller, one of just four scholarship players at the position, missed spring practice because of an injury. But that allowed a number of other players in the secondary to get extra reps.

"If we can create turnovers like I did at the previous place I was at, that gives you an advantage. It gives your offense possibly three more possessions a game than they would have. Whether our numbers are good or not doesn't really concern me. My numbers are wins and losses and how many turnovers we can get so our explosive offense can have another opportunity to score."
- co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest

"The 70-point deal is a blessing from a motivational standpoint from the kids," Holgorsen said. "It makes it easier to go to class and makes it easier to do the voluntary stuff, which has to exist in college football because of the eight-hour rule. Attendance from that standpoint has been a lot better, the motivation in the weight room, the motivation to do your study hall stuff."
- Holgorsen on West Virginia's 70-33 victory in the Orange Bowl

"I've made tremendous improvement with that. I know where to go with the ball. I don't hesitate as much as I may have in the past. It's something, though, I have to keep working on - it's never going to be 100 percent great."
- quarterback Geno Smith on working on a quicker release

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Marshall
Sept. 15 James Madison (at Landover, Md.)
Sept. 22 Maryland
Sept. 29 Baylor*
Oct. 6 at Texas*
Oct. 13 at Texas Tech*
Oct. 20 Kansas State*
Nov. 3 TCU*
Nov. 10 at Oklahoma State*
Nov. 17 Oklahoma*
Nov. 24 at Iowa State*
Dec. 1 Kansas*
* - Big 12 Conference game.

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