NORMAN, Okla. - No matter what West Virginia's offense ends up looking like tonight at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, chances are good that the Sooner coaches won't be caught off guard.Few coaching staffs in the country are more familiar with Dana Holgorsen than Oklahoma's. And if the overall familiarity isn't enough, OU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh went to the Sooners straight after two years at WVU."Oh, it goes way deeper than that,'' Holgorsen said, referring to the Bedenbaugh connection. "I've known a lot of those guys for 15 years. We've been to clinics together and we hang out together. They know our offense better than anyone else out there."I don't know what that's going to do for them, but you have to be careful with that. You have to be careful with your signals, your tendencies and your combinations because they understand it. They know us better than anyone in the country.''
It's not so much just signals and plays and the like that Oklahoma's coaches know about Holgorsen's offense. It goes right to the heart of the philosophy behind the offense. It's a Mike Leach thing.While Leach is known primarily for the Air Raid offense he popularized at Texas Tech beginning in 2000 - and which Holgorsen adopted while working for Leach in Lubbock - it's easy to forget that his last stop prior to Tech was Oklahoma. Leach was Bob Stoops' first offensive coordinator when Stoops got the OU job in 1999.Granted, that was a long time ago, but the fact is one of the reasons Oklahoma has been a pass-heavy team during Stoops' 14 years prior to this one is that Leach influence. He might have lasted just a season in Norman, but his offense there lived on."You see gradual changes in our offense and theirs with outside influences,'' Holgorsen said. "You can see the changes when I went from Texas Tech to Houston, Houston to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma State to West Virginia. But the basis of the offensive structure is very similar.''Only this year is Oklahoma really straying dramatically from the Air Raid type of philosophy, thanks primarily to a new running quarterback. But even at that, when Trevor Knight becomes more comfortable, expect that to revert back at least somewhat.As for Holgorsen, he's never strayed from the Air Raid. Yes, he's having a difficult time doing what he wants to do right now because of inexperienced personnel - particularly at quarterback - but he's never gotten away from the philosophy.And Oklahoma's coaches are well versed in the philosophy."Dana doesn't change his system much, which he shouldn't,'' Stoops said. "I'm familiar with how they run their offense, being that we've had it here for a long time, too. It goes way back to Mike Leach and we still have a lot of parts of our offense that are the same as what they're doing."Dana does it well. You still see a lot of the same things. There may be a little bit more emphasis on running the football. But I know that Dana likes to run the football and ran it on us last year.''Stoops, though, doesn't really expect to see the same sort of run-heavy offense tonight that he saw from West Virginia a week ago. He knows that while the Air Raid is capable of being turned into a running offense, he doesn't expect Holgorsen to be satisfied doing just that."Dana has his plays that he stays with and they do it well,'' Stoops said. "They were pretty vanilla in their first game but I know we won't see a vanilla scheme in what they're doing against us. It'll be different, so we'll prepare for a lot of what we saw last year."
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.