By John Helsley
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Dana Holgorsen’s early exit from Oklahoma State should come as no surprise. He was always a short-timer in Stillwater.
Took up residence in a hotel. Refused to sign his contract (no buyout!). Holgorsen always had one foot on Hwy 51, headed to… somewhere. Now we know where: West Virginia, according to widespread reports.
And immediately, several thoughts flood the brain:
* Who’s calling the plays, now and later?
Cowboys coach Mike Gundy needs a play caller — that’s the attribute Gundy most admired about Holgorsen, his skills for calling the right play at the right time and for his feel in the flow. By season’s end, Holgorsen and quarterback Brandon Weeden were regularly on the same page in play calls, so getting things done in the bowl game shouldn’t be a problem. Remember, Holgorsen’s scheme works from a limited playbook, although with varied options. That’s not saying Weeden will call his own plays, but his sync with Holgorsen within the offense will help, no matter who’s signalling things in from the sideline. And it might even be Holgorsen, considering he won’t be installing his offense at West Virginia in these few short weeks before the Mountaineers play in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 28. If it’s not Holgorsen, expect Doug Meacham to handle the duties.
Of bigger concern is what does it mean down the road: Who’s the next OC? Too early to say. But the possibilities are far and wide. Gundy, again? Meacham, maybe? Another shot with an outsider, obviously someone with a similar style to Holgorsen? Gundy admittedly enjoyed his year away from game-planning and play-calling, but he wouldn’t close the door on re-assuming those duties when Holgorsen left, sooner or later.
* How does this impact the draft decisions of Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden?
The guess here, and it’s purely a guess, Weeden returns with plenty to gain in a second season as starter. As I’ve been told by someone with an NFL background, the biggest question mark with Weeden isn’t his age (27), it’s his lack of a resume, which amounts to one season. That’s not much for pro evaluators to go on, at least when it comes to spending a high-round draft pick on a QB.
Blackmon is another matter, as he’s risen recently in the eyes of scouts and could be a first-round pick. That may be hard to resist, although he’s solidly rated behind Georgia’s A.J. Green and Alabama’s Julio Jones and the stock of wide receivers in the draft tends to fluctuate wildly.
Working in OSU’s favor, at least for now, labor unrest in the NFL that threatens the 2011 season.
* What is West Virginia getting in Holgorsen?
One quirky dude, to begin with. Holgorsen is a Leach disciple in every way, from their shared backgrounds to their offensive philosophies to their fondness for flip-flops on any occasion.
On the field, he should be an excellent fit, as the Mountaineers have the talent and speed to afford the kind of quick and easy transition Holgorsen pulled off at OSU. Quarterback Geno Smith is a sophomore who’s thrown for 23 TDs and six interceptions. Leading receiver Tavon Austin, a running back used primarily in the passing game, is another sophomore.
Holgorsen’s personality off the field is an interesting wild card. In this blog post from earlier this season, we learned of the peculiarities that Gundy said could be a culture shock for some. Assistants regularly remake themselves when they get the opportunity to become head coaches, almost always in a conservative way. Holgorsen will have to change. Can he?
* Will Holgorsen be taking anyone from this OSU staff with him?
Early indications are that West Virginia will retain its defensive coaches, now and after Holgorsen officially takes over for Bill Stewart. So cross off the guys coaching the defensive side of the ball at OSU.
Meacham and Joe Wickline are firmly entrenched at OSU and won’t budge. Robert Gillespie isn’t likely to leave, either. Gunter Brewer could leave, but it is exploring other options. Graduate assistant Jake Spavital, who followed Holgorsen to Stillwater from Houston, is the one coach who would be likely to go.