The Times West Virginian

Sports

October 16, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN: Is WVU taking longest ever to settle on QB, lineup?

MORGANTOWN — Dana Holgorsen’s so-called “work in progress” as third-year head coach of West Virginia University’s ailing football program obviously hasn’t been doing very well.

Hopefully, the struggling Mountaineers (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) will fare somewhat better during the remainder of this 2013 campaign. There don’t appear to be any more “gimme games” on the schedule, though.

What continues to be a most perplexing problem, however, is that the university’s highest paid coaching staff in 122 years of football faces the season’s second half without having settled on a starting quarterback.

What’s more, I’m told there are other positions at which shuffling of starters continues — not only on offense but on defense. Could recruiting as well as coaching be factors?

I don’t know. Members of the media can’t even guess. Holgorsen closes all of his practices to reporters during the regular season.

I’ve been around 10 other head coaches in 68 years covering the WVU sports beat, and none was as secretive as Holgorsen. Even the two main front doors to the Milan Puskar Center are kept locked daily.

That prevents visitors to the campus from seeing WVU’s football Hall of Traditions, which Rich Rodriguez helped establish in the early years of this century.

Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson have given quarterbacks Paul Millard, Clint Trickett and Ford Childress two starts each during the first half of this season. Such uncertainty time-wise might be a school record on drawn-out decision-making.

Yes, injury was involved as a factor. But keep in mind that the coaches have had at least 70 days of practice this fall. And two of the three signal-callers were here previously and also for last spring’s 15 days of practice.

Most of the other players on this year’s squad also were thought to be available then, except those nine junior college transfers (which has to be another all-time mark). Do you really build a football team with that amount of JCs in a year.

True, Holgorsen has had outstanding success as an offensive coordinator at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State. But it has been struggling — for the most part — since he assumed the reins at WVU in 2011.

His impressive debut resulted in a 10-3 record with players recruited almost solely by Bill Stewart, his predecessor who’s now deceased. Last year’s team finished a disappointing 7-6 after losing six of its last eight games.

While Holgorsen’s offense in scoring has ranked in the top 10 or top 15 nationally in past years, West Virginia ranks a shocking 94th after six games this season (among 124 Football Bowl Subdivision teams).

The Mountaineers are averaging only 24 points per game so far this year. Going into 2013, Holgorsen’s offenses averaged 41.1 ppg for his entire career.

He insists that the offensive scheme “is good.” He said, “It’s worked everywhere I’ve been for 15 years.” However, a growing number of people suspect that the more experienced head coaches in the Big 12 and elsewhere have poked holes in that offense which he brought to Morgantown.

“We knew we were going to be a work in progress,” Holgorsen said last week. “Everybody knew that. … We wanted it to come together quicker.

“I wish I was sitting here after six games saying that we know who we are, where we’re at and where we’re going. But that’s just not necessarily the current situation.”

Shouldn’t that be part of the responsibility, though, of a major college head coach to know at this point in a season?

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