The move to the Big 12 isn’t official until July 1st, but West Virginia’s football team began its preparations for the move to the new conference on Sunday with the first day of spring practice getting under way.
The move to the Big 12 will surely be new to the players, but not to their head coach who spent eight years as an assistant on Mike Leach’s staff at Texas Tech and another season as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State before moving on to West Virginia. Holgorsen’s staff also consists of four assistants with prior coaching experience in the Big 12, as well.
On the field, West Virginia will spend a good deal of time this spring installing new defensive schemes with former defensive coordinator, Jeff Casteel, moving onto Arizona. “Offensively, it’s a lot easier to coach them because of how they’re going, but defensively there was a lot of coaching because they didn’t know where they were going. It will be fun to see how that plays out, get back out there and have another day of non-pads and we can talk what real football looks like,” Holgorsen said after the first day of workouts on Sunday.
Not only will the Mountaineers be installing new systems on defense, but they’ll also be trying to replace five starters including defense ends Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller along with linebacker Najee Goode. The trio finished one, two, and three on the team in sacks last year combining for 22.5 on the season.
Offensively, things should be much smoother with one of the bests quarterbacks in the country, Geno Smith, returning to run Holgorsen’s spread offense. West Virginia also returns receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey who combined for 173 catches in 2011. The duo along with Smith will cause a lot of sleepless nights for the Big 12’s defensive coordinators trying to game plan against the Mountaineers.
The team’s leading rusher, Dustin Garrison, will also return in 2012 but will sit out the spring season because of knee surgery in January but should be back in June to start summer workouts.
If there is a question mark on offense, it’ll be finding guys up front to protect Smith off the edges. Both of last year’s starting tackles, Don Barclay and Tyler Rader, exhausted their eligibility.
West Virginia will also be working true freshman quarterback, Ford Childress, hard this spring who arrived on campus early to take part in spring ball. The 6’4″ quarterback from Houston, Texas will hopefully add much needed depth behind Smith and last year’s backup, Paul Millard. “He has tremendous talent. He’s physically very imposing with a phenomenal arm, which is exactly what we knew when we recruited him. On understanding the offense, obviously he’s got a long ways to go. He looked like Paul did last year, when he first got here. I’m sure he looks like Geno did when he first got here. He’s a tremendous talent that’s going to take time and reps for him to be comfortable with it like Geno and Paul are,” said Holgorsen.
West Virginia’s spring game is set for April 21st. The Mountaineers open the 2012 season at home against Marshall and their first ever Big 12 game will be in Morgantown on September 29th when Baylor pays a visit.