The Norman Transcript

Sports

August 20, 2013

West Virginia has tall task to become competitive in conference play

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Chasing a Big 12 championship will be a tall order for West Virginia unless Dana Holgorsen can do some patchwork on both sides of the ball.

The Mountaineers' third-year coach hopes a group of transfers can help shore up big holes on offense and improve a defense that was one of the nation's worst last year.

West Virginia is coming off a disappointing 7-6 season that included a five-game losing streak. They Mountaineers aren't considered to be a contender for a Big 12 championship in their second season in the conference.

West Virginia fans got spoiled by an offense that averaged 40 points per game a year ago. But with only three returning starters on offense, the Mountaineers will be pressed to continue a streak of 11 consecutive seasons of playing in a bowl game.

Holgorsen must choose from three candidates to replace departed quarterback Geno Smith and has a group of mostly inexperienced wide receivers looking to fill the void left by Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

"We're talking to our guys about this all the time: How are we going to score a point without three of the best players to ever play the game here?" Holgorsen said Monday. "That doesn't mean that we don't have guys on our roster that can't score touchdowns. There are some guys probably waiting in the wings or maturing or developing that we just don't know who they are yet."

For now, the challenges not only are to get the players to understand the system but to replicate its dizzying pace of play.

"In the Big 12 we're going to have to not only be able to play fast, which is what we like to do offensively, but we have to be able to defend that as well," Holgorsen said. "We have a long ways to be functional offensively and defensively when it comes to tempo."

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