Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege was one of Dana Holgorsen's recruits when Holgorsen was an assistant with the Red Raiders.
MORGANTOWN - At roughly the same time Seth Doege walked into the Texas Tech football program in January of 2008, Dana Holgorsen was walking out.Well, OK, perhaps walked isn't the right term. For either.For Doege, it was more of a limp after having not played a single down of football as either a junior or senior at Frenship High School in Lubbock, Texas.For Holgorsen, it was more of the start of a mad dash, rather than a walk, toward three jobs - four, if you count his aborted tenure as West Virginia's offensive coach/head coach in waiting - in the next four years.
Still, the two remain bound by a common thread, one that had it not existed might make Saturday's game between No. 5 West Virginia and Texas Tech in Lubbock a lot different.Holgorsen would no doubt be the coach at WVU, but who knows what might have happened to Doege?"I guess I owe him a lot, him and the other coaches that were there at the time,'' Doege said. "If they hadn't done what they did, my career probably would have turned out a lot different.''Indeed, in the past year Doege has become one of the most prolific passers in the country. On Saturday, West Virginia will face a fifth-year senior quarterback who as a first-year starter in 2011 put up some almost Geno Smith-like numbers for the Red Raiders, throwing for more than 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns.In the pass-centric Big 12, Doege ranked third in the league in passing behind Brandon Weeden and Landry Jones, but ahead of first-round NFL draft picks Robert Griffin III (the Heisman Trophy winner) and Ryan Tannehill. Not bad company.
But that Doege even had a chance to play college football is perhaps a testament to something that seems rare these days - commitment and integrity. By coaches.As a sophomore at Crane High School in Texas, Doege exploded onto the scene. He passed for 2,439 yards and 27 touchdowns and Crane finished 13-1. Already he was being recruited by Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Florida, along with Mike Leach and Holgorsen at Texas Tech.But then in the summer of 2006, after his coach and father switched jobs and he enrolled at Frenship, he blew out his knee and missed his entire junior season. A year later, he blew out the other knee and had to sit out his senior year. Pretty much the only thing he was able to do on a football field were the 7-on-7 camps during the summer that preceded each injury.Yet Texas Tech, which had already offered a scholarship, never wavered. When it was time to sign on the dotted line, they presented him with a dotted line to sign on."It was the right thing to do,'' Holgorsen said. "Keep in mind, too, he was in a Lubbock high school for two years and we saw him all the time. There was a friendship that existed.''
Holgorsen never got a chance to coach him, though. It was in January of 2008 when Doege enrolled as an early high school graduate at Texas Tech at the same time Holgorsen was taking the job as the offensive coordinator at Houston.
"One of the first days I walked in,'' Doege said, "he was packing up to go to Houston."It wasn't that big a deal, though, because I was pretty close with a lot of the coaches on the staff at the time. Being from Lubbock, I'd go up there all the time and kind of got to know them. I hated to see him leave, but at the same time I felt comfortable with the rest of the guys.''Holgorsen has since spent two years at Houston, another as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State and then last year arrived at West Virginia. He's faced Texas Tech since then, but never when Doege was really in the mix. Doege's first year as a starter was last season, when Holgorsen was coaching in the Big East.He still has a soft spot for the kid, though."We recruited him when he was a sophomore in high school and then never saw him play again,'' Holgorsen said. "I'm really proud of him being in the situation he's in because he had a great sophomore year, transfers to a bigger school in Lubbock and doesn't play for two years. And I was there. It was heartbreaking to see the kid not be able to play.''Doege actually continued to have knee problems in college, too, which is one of the reasons it took him until last year to become the starter. He redshirted in 2008, then played sparingly in 2009 and 2010.
In his first year as a starter, he had some real highlights, like a 40-for-44 game against New Mexico that set an NCAA record for completion percentage with 40 or more passes and 441 yards and four touchdowns in 41-38 upset of Oklahoma.Things haven't gone so well since for the Red Raiders, though. They lost five straight after that upset of OU and missed a bowl for the first time in 11 years, and after a 4-0 start this season were hammered Saturday by the Sooners in Lubbock, 41-20. In the last two games, Doege has thrown five interceptions, two of which were returned for scores.Not that that means Doege is finished. He's proven he can bounce back before. Shoot, even after all those knee injuries, he refuses to wear a knee brace and says the injuries are "like they never happened at all.''"You talk about a determined kid who just never gave up,'' Holgorsen said. "And that's how he plays the game, too. He just never gives up.''For his part, Doege said he has kept track of Holgorsen through the years, but hasn't really kept in touch."I'm sure he's got other things on his mind other than talking to me,'' Doege said. "Maybe I'll see him after the game and say 'hi' or something.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.