DALLAS — Dana Holgorsen had been through the rigors of a Big 12 schedule during his years as the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.
So he tried to explain the difficulties of playing in Big 12 road environments — and against the league's prolific offenses — to his West Virginia team as the Mountaineers navigated their first season in the conference in 2012.
But the players needed to experience it for themselves.
“I sat there and told them how tough Texas Tech was gonna be,” Holgorsen said Tuesday at Big 12 Media Days. “And they looked at me like, ‘We just won at Texas. What do you mean Texas Tech is gonna be tough?'
“It's a transition. There's no excuses made. We've got to coach them up. We've got to get them comfortable with all the surrounding teams in the league, and eventually we'll have success.”
Now WVU enters Year 2 in the league with much lower expectations after it sputtered to a 7-6 finish last season and then lost offensive stars Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to the NFL.
Holgorsen talked Tuesday about the ongoing adjustment for his program, his continuing impact on the Oklahoma State program and how he feels new Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury will fare in Lubbock.
What did you most take away from West Virginia's first season in the Big 12?
“I said going into it that it's going to take a couple years before everybody understands it. I did my best of explaining what it's going to be like at the specific places. Next year I'm gonna have to do the same thing, because we're playing at all the places that we've never played before. So it's the same thing. But after a couple years in it, with half our roster that has experienced games in the Big 12 — whether it's home, whether it's away — then you start developing some familiarity with it. The fan base understands it. The administration understands it. Your players understand it. And they can talk about it with the other guys. It's going to take some time. We battled. Everybody thinks it was a disappointing, unsuccessful season, well, it wasn't a whole lot different than 2011, just at a higher level. It takes some time, but we'll get there.”
Oklahoma State was picked to win the conference in the preseason media poll. When Mike Gundy and others talk about the rise of the program — specifically, the offensive numbers — your name still frequently comes up as a key contributor. Do you take any pride in knowing you helped build that program?
“It was a success. Me and Mike have talked about that. It was a success for me. It was a success for Oklahoma State. It worked out. You can't sit there and live in the past. It was one year. When that year is over, you move onto the next one. I think we'll both agree it was a success for both of us, but what you do the next year is what you're gonna be remembered for.”
Gundy still hasn't named a starting quarterback. You coached Clint Chelf and recruited J.W. Walsh. What qualities stick out to you about both of those guys?
“They're both good players. Clint's a smart kid that has sat in a lot of meetings and learned the system. And based on last year, he proved that he can line up and that he can lead the team to victory. J.W., I never got to coach him, but I spent a lot of time understanding what his mental makeup's all about, and the kid knows how to win games, as well. The biggest thing with quarterbacks is having a guy that believes he can win, and both of those guys do.”