Dawson eager to pick up the pace of WVU offense
MORGANTOWN - Dana Holgorsen likes to talk about the tempo of his West Virginia offense and what a disruptive force it can be. But after concluding spring drills last week, it wasn't tempo that was his main concern.
"It's more about execution than it is tempo,'' Holgorsen said. "We've got the tempo figured out. It's about how it looks after we actually snap the ball.''
True. A fast tempo can be a wonderful thing. Running plays at a breakneck pace can wear on an opposing defense to the point that it begins inventing ways to combat it by circumventing the rules of the game. As witness, see the times a year ago when WVU opponents - including even all-powerful LSU - seemed to fabricate injuries that would slow the pace.
But if plays are being called and run rapidly and they aren't getting anywhere, then all it serves to do is to aid the enemy. So that's why Holgorsen is far more concerned with execution before rapidity. There's no sense running plays quickly if it only serves to force a faster punt.
Still, the tempo issue is intriguing if for no other reason than heading into the 2012 season, West Virginia has a new offensive coordinator. Granted Shannon Dawson's elevation to that position is largely one of semantics, and Holgorsen will still run the offensive show.
But it is intriguing because Dawson, by nature, likes a faster tempo than does Holgorsen. And both will admit it.
"He's a fast-paced guy - spread it out, throw it every down,'' Holgorsen said of Dawson, who still serves in his former position as receivers coach in addition to his new responsibilities. "I'm a little more conservative being the head coach. He doesn't really care.''
The tempo at which West Virginia will play this coming season will still be largely dictated by Holgorsen. Despite the job title, little will change for Dawson and Holgorsen on game days. Dawson will still be upstairs communicating to Holgorsen on the field. Thus Holgorsen, if only due to the fact that he remains the final communicator to quarterback Geno Smith on the field (and, of course, because he's the boss) will dictate the tempo of the offense.
"He wins it,'' Dawson said when asked who ultimately has the say. "Definitely, he does.''
Still, there will likely be some battles between the two as games go along, Dawson pressing for a faster pace and Holgorsen perhaps listening, perhaps not.
"I probably call [plays] a little more reckless than he does,'' Dawson said. "He's more conservative. There's no doubt about it. He's a lot more conservative than I am. But everybody's got their own personality and their own ways. We're calling the same plays. I just might call them a little bit different than he would.''
If Dawson has his way, though, the faster West Virginia's offense plays, the better. But he fully understands the risks involved.
"You have to control it. You can't go out there and play as fast as you can possibly play and go three-and-out three times,'' Dawson said. "There's a fine line there between wanting to play fast and being smart. Ultimately we want to win the football game, whether it's 7-6 or 40-30 or whatever it is. You have to gauge how the game's going, how our defense is playing and if we're having success.''
Take last weekend's spring game, for instance. On the first series of the game, the offense had success and so Dawson - who was calling and signaling plays from field level while Holgorsen just watched - picked up the pace.
"We went out right off the bat and were successful, so then you really want to play fast,'' Dawson said. "We preach all the time about having a killer mentality and when you have a guy on the ropes you need to keep attacking. But if we'd gone three-and-out, then we probably would have slowed down and huddled and tried to work our way through it.''
Much of it, too, involved the personality of the players on the field, particularly the quarterback. In Smith, Dawson probably has an ally in a quest for a faster pace.
"It really comes down to the personality of your quarterback,'' Dawson said. "You can tell those guys like to line up and play fast, so I just went with it. They wanted to play fast, so we went fast. With Geno, you can do whatever you want to do.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1