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UNSTOPPABLEby: John Gallup
Editor and Publisher
© June 2012
In recent years, college teams in the FBS have discovered that, if you want to have a powerhouse, pass-happy offense that ranks at or near the top in total yards and scoring, you should just hire Dana Holgorsen.
Starting in 2005, when he became co-offensive coordinator under Mike Leach at Texas Tech, Holgorsen has transformed average offenses into units that are anything but average. Having lots of talent at the skill positions has obviously been a factor in his teams’ ability to score early and score often. But it’s Holgorsen’s faith in the “Air Raid” version of the spread and the refinements that he has brought to it that has allowed his offenses to consistently produce prolific numbers.
Considering his coaching tree, no one should be surprised that Holgorsen is a disciple of the wide-open Air Raid offense. His first assistant’s position was at Valdosta State in 1993 where he, along with Leach, coached under Hal Mumme, who many consider to be the “father” of the Air Raid. He followed Leach, whom he had played for as a wide receiver at Iowa Wesleyan, to Texas Tech, where they worked together to develop and refine their Air Raid offense – turning it into a top-5 passing attack that lit up Lubbock.
Holgorsen brought the offense to Houston, where he served as offensive coordinator in 2008-09 and led the Cougars to #3 and #1 rankings in total offense. Moving to Oklahoma State in 2010, he took a Cowboy team that had ranked 61st in offensive yardage the year before and nearly doubled their passing yardage en route to a #6 national offense ranking.
If you need more proof of his ability to transform an offense by passing early and often, consider last season at West Virginia, Holgorsen’s first as a head coach. In the year prior to his arrival, the Mountaineer offense was 62nd in FBS passing yardage. In 2011, they were 5th. They finished off a 10-3 season by putting up 70 points against Clemson in the Orange Bowl - the most points ever scored in a BCS game.
Amazingly, Holgorsen has molded the offenses of four of the top ten passing teams in the nation last year. The irony of the 2012 season is that his Mountaineers, having joined the Big 12, will have to play road games against two of those teams, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, and figure out ways to stop the high-powered Air Raid offenses that he had a big part in creating.
AFM first worked with Holgorsen in 2007, his first year as full-time OC at Texas Tech. We featured him on the cover of our September issue and provided an in-depth interview about his use of the tight end in Tech’s passing attack. This month, the focus is on the role that running backs play in his offense in the “Diamond” formation, which he installed last season at West Virginia after successfully incorporating it into Oklahoma State’s offense the year before. Holgorsen, together with his running backs coach Robert Gillespie and Illinois high school coach Ken Leonard, who created an early version of the Diamond in 2002, explain how the formation can be a great way to showcase the talents of your playmakers.
What’s ahead for Dana Holgorsen this season? With the move to the Big 12, look for the Mountaineers to be the next high octane offense in the conference, especially with returning playmakers like QB Geno Smith and inside receiver Tavon Austin. And with his years of experience exploiting Big 12 defenses while at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, Holgorsen may have a built-in advantage over any coach playing in a new conference for the first time.
Will Holgorsen’s streak of top-10 FBS offenses continue in 2012? We wouldn’t bet against it.
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