07 May 2012
When Dana Holgorsen inherited the West Virginia football program, he did so with the thought of making a few changes. Some areas we were all aware of, some not so much - and some not at all.
I prefer to categorize them as the obvious, somewhat obvious, and the not so obvious.
The obvious - we knew the offense would change. Holgorsen's background was a pass-happy, air raid offense. What Rich Rodriguez had built with speed, athleticism, and tempo, Bill Stewart tried his hardest to flip the offensive switch. Under his watch the offense became more conservative and slow. So it was a given Holgorsen would make an adjustment to fit his liking.
The somewhat obvious - many probably didn't know his recruiting strategy, particularly his primary recruiting area, would also change.
For as long as anyone can remember, the Mountaineers have spent the majority of their recruiting efforts in Florida. To this day there's pipelines built that consistently send players north to Morgantown. The foundation they've built in the Sunshine state is strong enough to withstand a seasonal hurricane. It's that strong.
However, under Holgorsen's leadership, the 'Eers are now focusing heavily on the state of Texas.
The evidence was presented early into Holgorsen's tenure. In the 2011 recruiting class, the first under his leadership, the Mountaineers signed two Texans, Dustin Garrison and Paul Millard. Those were followed up in 2012 with another five prospects - Josh Lambert (K), Jordan Thompson (WR), Ford Childress (QB), Garrett Hope (LB), and Noble Nwachukwu (DE).
But it doesn't just stop with Holgorsen.
Things became more intriguing after last season. The football staff had an almost complete overhaul with new defensive coaches, and all had Texas connections. When Holgorsen looked for eventual replacements, he did so with an idea in mind.
Joe DeForest left Oklahoma State to become West Virginia's Co-Defensive Coordinator. He is widely known as an ace recruiter in the Houston area. Keith Patterson, the other half of the Co-DC combo, came over from Pittsburgh. He spent many years coaching high school football in Texas, before six seasons at Tulsa. The final addition was defensive line coach, Erik Slaughter. He has spent his entire coaching career in Texas.
These coaches are also mixed in with a combination of offensive assistants who are also familiar with the state.
The new regime is combining old roots and establishing new contacts. They're trying to find those hidden gems other programs overlooked. They're trying to recruit high school coaches before the recruits themselves. They're trying to build a firm foundation for the future.
In the recruiting circuit, it's widely know kids from the state of Texas commit earlier, usually in their junior season, and are typically more firm with their word.
While there are no commitments to speak of thus far in 2013 out of Texas, there have been numerous offers sent out to recruits in the Lone Star state. Just within the last week Mountaineer coaches have been spotted roaming the halls of Texas high schools. I recently had one WVU contact tell me the coaching staff is being more deliberate in their evaluations. With so many top level prospects in the state, they can afford to be more selective.
The not so obvious -the final piece to the puzzle came last February. As if West Virginia's staff needed more ammunition in the musket, the University announced they'd be leaving the Big East conference and joining the Big 12 for the 2012 season.
The coaches immediately began selling the conference switch to recruits. That's a large reason why you saw them jump three Texas recruits in one class. But don't expect them to slow down anytime soon. The expectations for next season are plentiful. A high octane offense, a potential Big 12 championship, and even a national title.
If all roads lead where Holgorsen wants he'll be successful long-term in the Big 12, coaching at West Virginia. And if he could have his way, he'd accomplish all that playing with Texas kids.
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