By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Dana Holgorsen’s second spring football practice begins Sunday and it can’t come quickly enough for him.
He has that much to do.
“Losing a lot of star power means we have a lot of hungry kids who want to prove themselves,” he said at the annual pre-spring luncheon and press conference at the facilities building at Milan Puskar Center.
“We obviously lost a lot of productivity that we have to replace, but that’s the nature of college football,” Holgorsen continued, adding “by no means will we panic.”
In truth, this season is not far off from starting over for Holgorsen, who will be working with five new assistant coaches and without Geno Smith at quarterback, Tavon Austin at slot receiver/running back/kick returner and Stedman Bailey at wide receiver, to say nothing of his entire interior offensive line.
Obviously, the No. 1 goal is to find a quarterback to replace Smith, who figures to be the first QB selected in the NFL draft.
Holgorsen doesn’t expect to make that decision during the spring unless one of his three quarterbacks — Paul Millard, last year’s backup; Ford Childress, a redshirt freshman, or newcomer Chavas Rawlins — separates himself from the group.
“We won’t know for a while,” Holgorsen said.
Holgorsen not only has to decide on a quarterback, but who the quarterback will be throwing the ball to.
At wide receiver, auditions will be held all spring, such is the extent of the losses.
“We have a lot of guys who haven’t played,” Holgorsen admitted. “That’s exciting to me.”
The interior line lost guards Josh Jenkins and Jeff Berk along with center Joey Madsen, who also figures to be drafted by the NFL.
One of the key experiments in the spring is moving Pat Eger from tackle to center, considering that the Mountaineers are deep at offensive tackle.
New offensive line coach Ron Crook, who just signed on from Stanford, has a lot of work to do with this group.
“We’ve talked toughness,” Crook said, noting that he is in the process of learning who his players are and what they are all about. “Physical toughness, mental toughness. We want to be the dominant force on the field.”
The defense, while more experienced than the offense, may be more of a challenge, for it was among the nation’s worst last year.
Keith Patterson has taken over as defensive coordinator, actually beginning with the Pinstripe Bowl loss, and has been putting things in place since then.
He has a couple of solid linebackers in Doug Rigg and Isaiah Bruce back, along with hard-hitting safety Karl Joseph, while the line will be anchored by Will Clarke.
However, like on offense, much is uncertain and will be worked out in the spring and when the team reports back in August.
“There is no depth chart,” Holgorsen said. “There is open competition at every position.”
As for injuries, a number of players are out of spring or limited.
Wide receiver Dante Campbell had shoulder surgery and won’t be back until June or July while cornerback Terrell Chestnut is out with knee surgery after being hurt in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Linebacker Avery Williams missed last year and is down to do only non-contact drills this spring, as is linebacker Jewone Snow.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.