The Times West Virginian

September 24, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- WVU has unanswered questions

By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Is there a simple answer to Dana Holgorsen’s complex problems?

Could be.

No, he made it certain on Monday that he’s not about to:

a.) change philosophies.

b.) change quarterbacks.

But it appears he does have to change emphasis, something he really has already begun to do.

A year ago he worked out of tempo, armed with an NFL quarterback in Geno Smith and a pair of NFL receivers in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

Why not run tempo? The more plays you run, the more opportunities those players had a chance to do something special.

Now, though, it’s a redshirt freshman quarterback in Ford Childress learning his trade ... the hard way.

Maybe the approach should change? Maybe this should be a slow down, running team to eliminate the area where most of the mistakes are being made and to take advantage of what seems to be the most talent?

“The philosophy has remained the same for about 15 straight years, so I doubt that’s going to change any more than it has,” he said. “I mean, there’s always an evolution of what you are trying to get accomplished on offense. We have spent a lot of time on the run game and it’s not bad.

“It can always improve, but what’s wrong with the offense is we’re not executing the pass game like we should. I’ve been saying that since Day 1. It’s still a work in progress.”

That means the protection, the receivers, but most of all the quarterback.

Holgorsen started the season with holdover Paul Millard as his starter but didn’t like what he saw.

He bypassed the more experienced Clint Trickett, a transfer from Florida State, for Childress.

It’s a choice a coach has to make. He watches and decides which he believes fits best and he came up with Childress, who debuted with a decent performance against a terrible Georgia State team, then followed that up with a dismal performance against Maryland.

Despite that, Holgorsen says Childress is his guy.

“His mentality didn’t change on the sideline (against Maryland). It was good to see that. He’s a hard worker and he’s going to get out there and try to improve at his craft, which is distributing the ball as good as he possibly can, getting us in the right run sets and handling the right leadership role on the sideline, which I think will get better and better each and every game,” Holgorsen explained.

Don’t bother suggesting some kind of alternating quarterback situation for WVU. Holgorsen isn’t interested.

“I would think everyone would want an established guy at quarterback. That’s what everybody does,” he said. “People play different quarterbacks when everyone brings something different to the table. The three guys we have are all pocket guys. They are not option guys. Look at Oklahoma State. I’ve been following them closely.

“Mike Gundy knows a thing or two about quarterbacks in his own right and the guy brings a thing or two different to the table. What J.W. Walsh brings to the table is different than what Clint Chelf brings to the table.

“Last year when they played all three guys they had to because of injuries, which is unfortunate. This year they settled on J.W. and he’s a tremendous football player.”

What you might dare suggest, rather than revolving quarterbacks, is to turn to a power run game, to use Dreamius Smith as the featured back with Charles Sims as a tailback or something coming off the win with Wendell Smallwood behind Sims and Dustin Garrison as a change of pace.

Maybe even go to a tight end set with Cody Clay to help the blocking and to give you a third-down target to go with talented but unproven wide receivers.

Holgorsen has already begun leaning in this direction and it may not bear the fingerprint he wants his offense to ultimately have, but it may give him the best chance to win in a conference that doesn’t see a whole lot of this style of football.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.