Controversy started before the season for the Mountaineers as Head Coach Bill Stewart was ousted and newly hired Offensive Coordinator Dana Holgersen was promoted one year ahead of schedule. Under Holgersen, West Virginia went from running the ball 58% of the time to passing 56% of the time. QB Geno Smith had an impressive year as he threw for over 4300 yards and had 31 TD against 7 INTs. WR Tavon Austin finished the year with 100 receptions and Stedman Bailey finished with 72.
One area where West Virginia really struggled was on defense. The Mountaineers allowed 87 more yards per game and allowed 13.3 more points per game than they did last year. Despite getting manhandled by Syracuse and beaten by Louisville, the Moutaineers still tied for a share of the Big East Championship and went on to destroy Clemson in the Orange Bowl. With the way the season ended, I think you have to see this season as a success for Holgersen and the Mountaineers. What will year two hold for the Fighting Holgersens? We caught up with Tom Perry of the combo West Virginia/Ohio State blog Eye and Eer to get his take on the 2011 Mountaineers and get a sneak peak into 2012.
CFBZ: Dana Holgersen had a bit of an up and down first year as Head Coach. What do you think he did well and what does he need to improve on?
Tom: Like any first-time head coach, Dana Holgorsen had his own growing pains. He's an intense coach and he expects his team to execute at the highest level. However, at times this season his sideline rants made him look petty and not in control. He got better as the season wore on. I think Holgorsen is an offensive genius and he understands ow to put his players in a position to win.
CFBZ: West Virginia didn't run the ball particularly well this year but Freshman Dustin Garrison had some moments. Do you see him stepping up as the #1 back next year or will somebody else take that spot?
Tom: I don't think Dustin Garrison's knee injury is too serious, so he should be back at 100 percent by fall. He showed promise, but I think Shawne Alston and Andrew Buie will also play a big role in the running attack. There is no question this part of the game has to improve next year for WVU to compete in the Big 12. A lot of the running woes fell to poor blocking as well.
CFBZ: WVU overwhelmed Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Why were the Mountaineers so successful against the Tigers?
Tom: It's unfair to evaluate WVU's offense on that performance, much like it is to evaluate Clemson's defense on that performance. The Mountaineers got the momentum and it took off from there. Now, it was still an impressive showing. I think this was proof that WVU's offense was trying to learn a new system all season and it finally clicked the final three regular season games and with the extra time to prepare for this game the entire offense finally got on the same page.
CFBZ: What is the lasting memory you will have of this season (good or bad)?
Tom: After three seasons of Bill Stewart, it's exciting to think WVU may be a relevant player again nationally. Dana Holgorsen has raised the stakes much like Rich Rodriguez did. Getting to 10 wins and winning another BCS bowl game are huge milestones and should never be taken for granted. I'd love to see WVU win a national championship one day, but I will never downplay how much fun it is to win that many games in a season and it's even more fun to close the year with a win in a bowl.
CFBZ: Heading into the off-season what are the biggest concerns about this team for 2012?
Tom: There is so much unknown about where WVU will play in 2012. Everyone in Morgantown keeps saying the Mountaineers will be in the Big 12 next season. But with all of the legal wrangling you just don't know. It would be nice to get that taken care of so everyone can know who is on the schedule next year. It's important to start developing a back-up to Geno Smith and improving the running game. If DC Jeff Casteel does leave for Arizona (editor note: since we complete this Q&A with Tom, it has been reported that Casteel will leave WVU and join the coaching staff at Arizona), then Holgorsen must go out and get the right guy to lead the defense.
Previous 2011 Exit Surveys
Pac-12- Oregon State Beavers