Ask any West Virginia University Mountaineer fan what bothered them about the team over the past few years.
The first answer would be lack of offensive production.
A close second would be special teams play, and lack of that play actually being special.
The overall performance of both units seemed to display a lack direction.
In the spring of 2010, then head coach Bill Stewart realigned and compartmentalized the special teams and its coaches. Stewart also realigned and compartmentalized the offense.
Obviously and attempt by Stewart to correct the problems both units displayed in their performance during games.
Stewart’s moves on offense forced athletic director Oliver Luck to hire Dana Holgorsen away from Oklahoma State. Holgorsen eventually replaced the entire offensive staff at WVU, including Stewart.
Holgorsen’s views on offense are completely different from Stewart’s, and previous members of his staff.
Stewart’s moves on special teams did show marginal improvement.
WVU finished ranked 108 in kickoff returns and 56 in punt returns for the 2010 season.
The majority of the improvement came from the coverage units. Associate head coach, in charge of safeties, Steve Dunlap was responsible for kickoff and punt coverage, and that improvement. Dunlap’s punt return team finished the season ranked 36.
WVU has finished its first five days of practice in preparation for the 2011 football season. All five of those practices have included extensive work on special teams.
Darren Roberts, formerly of the Detroit Lions, is now in charge of the return teams, Dunlap will continue with the coverage units. Fellow defensive coach Dave Lockwood will assist Dunlop in his duties.
In a recent interview Roberts details what he expects of his return men, he even outlines how he wants them to catch the football.
Each player vying for the job of return man is placing rolled up towels in each underarm to force that player to keep his arms together for the catch.
Add Holgorsen’s views on special teams to the list of differences with his predecessor.
Unorthodox, maybe, realize that the new coaches consider special teams play crucial to the success of the football team, and are not going to leave that potential success to chance.
The more WVU fans get to know Holgorsen, and his new coaches, the more refreshing their approach to the game becomes. Add that if it is refreshing to fans, the players have to believe it is akin to a new life.
Keep in mind that fans are aware of the attention on special teams because the team practices are open to the media for a period of each practice.
The majority of the work done on offense is not part of that open practice time.
Holgorsen prefers to keep his offense under wraps, and for good reason. Why give an opponent any insight to the intricacies of that offense.
Mountaineer Nation is simply going to have to be patient, they will see Holgorsen’s offense at Milan Puskar stadium soon enough.
Additionally, Holgorsen will be available for post game press conferences and his weekly show on West Virginia Illustrated.
Both provide an extended opportunity to get to know Holgorsen, and his new coaches.
It is almost like going back in time, to when we were children, waiting for Christmas morning to open that big present under the tree.
I always hated that wait.