By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Football, which normally is front and center at West Virginia University, returned for its spring run Sunday in the shadow of the announcement that the Mountaineers had a No. 10 seed and would face No. 7 Gonzaga in the first round of the NCAA Basketball Championships on Thursday at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center, but that did not bother Coach Dana Holgorsen at all.
It was the first time he got to spend with his team that annihilated Clemson, 70-33, in the Orange Bowl in January, and if you believe in omens, a nearly perfect spring day said this could be another big year for the Mountaineers.
“It was a good first day,” Holgorsen admitted after practice. “It was a beautiful day. It was awesome. We didn’t have one day like this last year. There was a big ol’ cloud over our head for a long time. It’s good that it is gone.”
The result was a spirited practice.
“We had really good energy, and it was good to get back out there. After eight weeks of offseason, lifting and running, it was good to get back out there and take advantage of working with them from a technique standpoint and assignment standpoint.”
That they were not in pads the first day meant that they couldn’t really go at each other, but that does not detract from what Holgorsen is trying to establish right away.
“There’s a lot of sense of urgency out there right now. One of the things we’ve talked about over the past nine weeks is if you think you’re comfortable with what we’re doing, then you’re going to get passed up. If you think you’ve got it figured out, that’s an ongoing thing that will never change,” Holgorsen said.
Working a second year with an experienced offense made it easier for Holgorsen than a year ago when Bill Stewart was still head coach and he was installing his offense as coordinator.
“It felt good. I probably did less coaching today than I’ve done the last three springs. It was more like it was with Case Keenum coming back at Houston. After you’ve coached him for a year, you didn’t have to tell him a whole bunch,” Holgorsen said.
“Back when we had Graham Harrell coming back for a second year, everything looked good. Geno looked poised, so we didn’t have to say a whole lot to him. It helps to have four linemen coming back that know what to do, five if you add Quinton Spain in there, who took snaps for us.
“He had four receivers that he was throwing to, five with Ryan Nehlen, that all had taken reps in games. That makes it a lot easier. Then you have four or five backs that took reps last year. It’s a natural progression for year two. We’re really happy with where we’re at right now.
“We’re baby-stepping them more than we did the offense. We threw a lot at them in three days, and we’re taking it more slowly with them than we were able to last year,” Holgorsen said. “Last year, defensively, we had a lot of returning guys in the system they had run for eight years. They were able to do a whole lot more early.”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.