Dana Holgorsen planned to spend Saturday night at the movies. The popcorn was optional.
After Saturday’s sixth practice of the spring for the West Virginia football team, Holgorsen — the Mountaineers’ offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting — was anxious to check out the tape.
“Another day in the books — we are to a point where you have to push through, and it’s all about getting a bunch of film and learning about what you did right and what you did wrong,” Holgorsen, in post-practice quotes provided to the media, said. “Today, we got in over 50 team plays, and we’ll be able to learn from it, that’s for sure.”
Holgorsen has been busy installing his patented high-scoring, pass-oriented offense that has the West Virginia fan base excited, and the Mountaineers’ defense working in near anonymity.
“We really don’t concern ourselves with the media and fan attention. We come out every day and go to work,” West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said. “We know we have a lot of work to do. Everybody knows we lost some good football players, but we also have some good football players here. We just have to get them all on the same page.”
Junior quarterback Geno Smith has the most to learn offensively this spring in anticipation of the Mountaineers’ Sept. 3 opener against Marshall, and Holgorsen has been mostly positive about what he has seen in the past week.
Smith is expected to start the season as the starter, while freshman Paul Millard has shown the ability to be the backup.
“I’m pleased with what (Smith’s) body language is. He bounces around pretty good and the guys look to him,” Holgorsen said. “If it’s not going great, he is the guy that is going to be able to get them going on the right track. The way he is communicating with guys, and the way his bounce is and body language is, is pretty good at this point.
“He has a long way to go, obviously only after six practices, we’re far from looking the way it’s going to look in September. It’s all about getting the plays, then running them and learning from it.”
In addition to grooming Smith for the upcoming season, the Mountaineers will be seeking replacements for tailback Noel Devine and receiver Jock Sanders.
While Holgorsen’s system is mostly focused on the pass, the run can’t be forgotten, and he’s looking at some candidates to fill Devine’s shoes, including tailbacks Shawne Alston, Trey Johnson and Daquan Hargrett, and fullback candidates Ricky Kovatch, Matt Lindamood and Ryan Clarke, who has gotten a warning about his issues with fumbling the ball.
Among the candidates at receiver are Bradley Starks, Ivan McCartney and J.D. Woods.
“Trey is getting better. He’s the one to me that looks like he has improved. Hargrett has been consistent. He’s been steady and consistent. Those two have been doing a good job,” said Holgorsen, who is still searching for the right combination at offensive line despite the return of four starters.
“We’re still evaluating (Ryan). He’s a guy that can carry the ball and a guy that can block. The better he can get at both of those aspects, the more he will play. If he puts the ball on the ground again, he’s not going to play at all.”
While Holgorsen is getting seemingly all the attention this spring, Casteel is busy trying to replace seven starters, although he does have talented returnees like linemen Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin and cornerback Keith Tandy.
“For the most part, I think the kids are doing a great job. The one thing I think we hinder our guys with a little bit is because we’re not out there with the same group all the time and this is a game you need to get used to playing with people,” Casteel said. “We keep mixing and matching, but we’re still looking at different people and not necessarily the overall look right now.”
The learning is continuing for Holgorsen and the players that will be responsible for making his much-touted offense work.
“Just who they are and what they are capable of,” said Holgorsen, on what he has learned through six practices. “Assessing where we’re at with the installation process, what we’re having success with and what we’re not having success with, mainly from a communication standpoint.
“We’ll continue to teach them what they need to do and once they figure out what to do, then you get them to understand how to get better at it.”
West Virginia will host its Blue-Gold game on Friday, April 29, at 7 p.m.
—Contact Brian Woodson