With four different coaches over the past 12 years, WVU fans and media covering the team have seen a number of different styles. From the old school approach of Don Nehlen through the brash proclamations of Rich Rodriguez and to the folksy style of Bill Stewart, the methods of communication, and the perceptions of the men in the job, have varied widely. Holgorsen, who ascended to the job earlier this month, has a already built a reputation as something of a free spirit, as evidenced by his fondness for Red Bull and a recent skydiving adventure. During his first extended session with the media as a head coach, he did nothing to dispel those perceptions, but he was also well-prepared, laying out his plans for the West Virginia program both short- and long-term.
Holgorsen emphasized several times during a 30+ minute media session that he planned no schematic changes to West Virginia's defense, which should allay some unfounded fears that he would impose modifications on that side of the ball.
“I think every player on our team has a good position coach,” he said. “We have a good scheme on offense, and a good scheme on defense. None of that is going to change. We did install a new kickoff return scheme and a new punt return scheme, and Coach Bedenbaugh has changed the extra point and field goal unit. Everyone knows that...well, just admit it, it was awful.”
Such statements are certainly a departure from West Virginia's previous head coach – in fact, there probably aren't many coaches in the nation that would be as blunt in his assessments. However, it's an indicator of Holgorsen's personality and coaching style – he's not going to back down, and he's going to call things as he sees them – and they won't require deciphering to do so.
Holgorsen appeared to be very much at ease in his new role. Of course, it isn't the first time he's faced a media gathering, but it was his first open session with no holds barred following a very restricted introduction as West Virginia's head coach a week ago. He shared personal experiences about a recent fishing trip (“I caught three in eight hours – I'm not a very good fisherman”), and illustrated several points with stories from past coaching stops.
Holgorsen acknowledged that he has much more to deal with now that there was just a week ago, but also explained that he has a plan for the program going forward. That has been shared with his staff, and according to Holgorsen, “everyone knows where they stand.”
“The duties are the same but the time got doubled,” he said of his own schedule. “I have to get to know the defensive players more. I already know all the offensive players, have their cell phone numbers, and have a relationship with them. I have to do the same with the defensive players. I have to get to know them, get to know where they are from and what makes them tick.
“There is a little bit more on my plate,” he continued. “People look at me a little bit differently. I knew it was going to happen [getting a head coaching job]. I am completely comfortable with all of that."
Even with his unexpected early elevation to the top of the program, Holgorsen was quick to point out that it wasn't a total surprise.
“I have been preparing for this from some time. I've worked with [head coaches] Mike Leach and Kevin Sumlin, who are very dear friends of mine. You take specific things from everybody you work with. I knew it was going to happen, It just turned out that it happened six months early.”
One other point that Holgorsen made might go further than any other comment in putting WVU fans at ease. West Virginia fans are very comfortable with head basketball coach Bob Huggins, who shares many qualities with Mountain State natives. One of Huggins' favorite stories involves getting into a pick-up truck when he was a teenager and asking the drive why it didn't have a rear-view mirror. 'Son, the driver told him,” I'm not worried about where we've been. I'm concentrating on where we are going.' So, when Holgorsen made a very similar point when talking about reflecting on his move up the ladder, he likely struck a chord with many observers.
“A couple of days ago I was out on a river, which was very peaceful. It was a time when I could reflect on what was going on and how it changed since last Friday. I thought about what's ahead. I don't look back. I don't collect things or pack things. I don't reflect on 'Oh my gosh, I've had this career.' I don't sit there and think, 'I've made it.' It's all about what we can do going forward.”
Holgorsen, despite an incident in which he was asked to leave a West Virginia casino last month, is certainly off to a good start with the majority of the public. If he can come close to achieving what Huggins has at West Virginia, his approval ratings could soar off the charts.