2018 Make-Or-Break For WVU’s Holgorsen
With graduation now behind us, let us put behind the school year of 2017-18 and look forward to the year of 2018-19. Hanging over the new West Virginia University school year is one overwhelming truth.
This is the most crucial year in Dana Holgorsen’s career as WVU coach.
It is a year where the program must move forward under his leadership or where a decision must be made as to his future and the future of the Mountaineer program.
Holgorsen was brought to WVU to usher the Mountaineers into the Big 12 Conference, a step out of what had become a comfortable home in the Big East.
It was deemed a step up, but as we look at where WVU stands today, coming off a 7-6 season, without yet earning a victory over Oklahoma, the team that Bill Stewart beat to give him the job of replacing the departed Rich Rodriguez, WVU has been idling in neutral.
There are any number of comparisons that can be made to show that WVU under Holgorsen to date has not turned on the electrical current that was expected to flow from the Puskar Center, but best is to compare them to TCU.
TCU came into the conference the same year as WVU. It, like WVU, has had one coach during its time in the Big 12.
And, like WVU, it struggled during its first two years in the conference, Gary Patterson and Holgorsen compiling identical 7-6 and 4-8 overall records and 4-5 and 2-7 conference records.
These teams were so even that the first game as Big 12 members between them was won by TCU, 39-38, and the second won by WVU, 30-27 … two points separating the teams.
But since then TCU has put together three 11- or 12-win seasons and a 40-13 record while WVU has won 10 games just once and is 32-20 over that same time span.
Last year TCU finished with a ranking of ninth in the nation while WVU was unranked.
Another way to display just where WVU stands as Holgorsen enters his eighth season as head coach is to compare him to the three previous coaches WVU has had — Don Nehlen, Rich Rodriguez and Bill Stewart.
That takes us back almost 40 years and from non-conference days for the Mountaineers as it introduced both a new coach and new stadium in Mountaineer Field.
Let’s look at these coaches’ three years as coach, using that time span because it covers Stewart’s entire career, then their first seven years, which covers both Rodriguez’s and Holgorsen’s WVU careers, their home records, away records, records against Top 20 teams and Top 10 teams.
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First 3 years
Nehlen, 24-12, .667; Rodriguez, 20-17, .541 Stewart, 28-12, .700; and Holgorsen, 21-17, .582 .
Note: Holgorsen went 10-3 in his first season, Rodriguez 3-8 in his.
First 7 years
Nehlen 52-29-1, .640; Rodriguez 60-29, .698; Holgorsen 53-37, .589.
Nehlen 90-37, .702; Rodriguez 33-11, 750; Stewart, 19-2, .905; Holgorsen, 31-15, .674
Note: Stewart’s home record is stunning, only two losses in three years, one by two points, one by three points.
Nehlen, 59-56, .513; Rodriguez, 27-15, .571; Stewart, 9-10, .474; Holgorsen, 22-22, .500.
Vs. Top 20 teams
Nehlen, 6-11, .353; Rodriguez 8-9, .471; Stewart, 2-2, .500; Holgorsen 5-17, .227
Vs. Top 10 teams
Nehlen, 2-8, .200; Rodriguez, 2-6, .250, Stewart 2-1, .667 Holgorsen 1-10, .091.
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What can be drawn from this?
It’s hard to win on the road, it’s hard to win against nationally ranked teams, it’s hard to win against Top 10 teams … but we already knew all that.
What can be drawn concerning Holgorsen is that he needs to show this season that he can move the program forward off where it is.
It’s as simple as that and the numbers back it up.
The evidence also is there that Holgorsen fully understands this, for he has changed his recruiting philosophy to bringing in far more transfers than were ever recruited in the past in an effort to win now.
It is true we are in changing times and that transferring is a sign of the times, but the danger with it is that a few mistakes in judgment not only damages the present but may hurt your future, for football is a game that often not only requires a redshirt season out of high school to grow physically and adept to collegiate surroundings, but another year to fit yourself into the system.
While transfers have the physical growth — if they are from major colleges and not junior colleges — it still takes time to catch on to the system, which makes it far more preferable to develop your own talent from within and take a long-term approach.
Holgorsen has the makings of a solid team this season with a strong Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Will Grier and the hopes are high both within the Puskar Center and on campus, even nationally, so this becomes a year in which Holgorsen has to meet expectations.