The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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February 14, 2013

Holgorsen must choose right coach

— By now, West Virginia University head football coach Dana Holgorsen should certainly understand the process of hiring assistant coaches.

WVU’s third-year head coach has already hired three new coaches this offseason — Tony Gibson (safeties), Lonnie Galloway (wide receivers) and Brian Mitchell (cornerbacks) — and it appears as though he’ll be looking for another one.

Multiple media outlets are reporting that Oklahoma has hired WVU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh for the same position, filling a vacancy created when James Patton left to join Kevin Wilson at Indiana.

The loss of Bedenbaugh is a big one for Holgorsen and his offense. The former Texas Tech and Arizona assistant was recently named one of the Big 12’s top recruiters by Rivals.com, and over the last two seasons he took a Mountaineer offensive line that had more holes than the golf courses at The Greenbrier and rebuilt it until a serviceable unit.

Holgorsen now faces what may be the biggest hire of his WVU career.

Look, receivers coaches and defensive back coaches are important, and every assistant is critical when it comes to the recruiting trail, but the in-practice and in-game contributions of those position coaches aren’t nearly as meaningful as those of the man leading the offensive line.

While receivers coaches and defensive back coaches manage personalities, playing time and technique, the scheme at those positions — and any adjustments in such — is usually determined by the offensive or defensive coordinator.

This isn’t true of the offensive line.

The “big uglies” in the trenches largely live in a world of their own, and their position coach is every bit as important as the man who does the television shows before the games and stands at the podium afterwards.

And if you don’t think offensive line matters, just take a look at the history books.

If you’re making a list of the top 5 WVU football teams of all-time, the 1988, 1993, 2005 and 2007 squads will be on almost every list.

What do these teams have in common? How about All-Americans on the offensive line.

In 1988, offensive tackle Rick Phillips was a first-team All-American from Scripps-Howard. Rich Braham was was a Kodak All-American tackle in 1993, Garin Justice and Dan Mozes were both second-team All-Americans in 2005 and Ryan Stanchek was a first-team offensive tackle by the Football Writers Association in 2007.

Find all the Tavon Austins, Steve Saltons, Pat Whites and Geno Smiths you wish. If there’s nobody to block for them, they’re going to struggle. And becoming a solid offensive line takes more than big bodies. It takes quality leadership to mold five guys into one unit.

Are there quality guys out there? Sure there are. One of the best in the game, in fact, is a West Virginia native and coached the WVU line from 2001 through 2006.

Luring Rick Trickett out of Florida State to return home isn’t very likely, but Holgorsen must be careful to pick the right guy. Ultimately, his job probably depends on it.

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The Big 12 announced the dates for spring practices and spring games for each of its teams on Wednesday. WVU, which made a school record 11th straight bowl appearance in 2012, will begin spring drills on March 10, and the annual Gold-Blue Spring Game will be played in Morgantown on April 20.

— E-mail: chuffman

@register-herald.com

and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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