AIR RAID - HOLGERSON STYLE
by Helen Sowell
West Virginia Head Coach, Dana Holgerson, is a true “Air Raid” disciple which means he schooled under Mike Leach at Texas Tech as Offensive Coordinator then continued at Oklahoma State with Mike Gundy before taking the head set in Morgantown in June, 2011 branching out on his own variation this season. An Air Raider believes in putting “speed in space” and throwing the pigskin short as many times as possible so you can score, score, score. It has three principles: simplicity, repetitions and freedom.
The QB must succeed for the team to go and he must make SMART DECISIONS. But the Holgerson version employs power running with long passes designed to pick up big chunks of yardage. And it appears to be working as Junior starting quarterback, Geno Smith, has had five 300-yard passing games, is first in the Big East in passing with 339.4 yards per game and first in total offense. After nine weeks, West Virginia is #15 nationally in scoring offense averaging 38.6 points per game and #6 in long pass plays.
The 40-year old Iowa native played wide receiver at Iowa Wesleyan College so he knows a thing or two about scoring. After assistant coaching stints at Division II schools, he landed at Texas Tech serving as Wide Receivers coach from 2000-04 then Offensive Coordinator from 05-07 under the innovative Leach. He would sit up in the press box and relay his observations to Coach Leach. Texas Tech’s offense was nationally ranked at #8 in 2006 and #3 in 2007 leading the nation in passing (470.31). He followed that up with OC/QB Coach at Houston in 2008 where he was able to showcase his play-calling creativity. Some were so outlandish that he requested that they at least be tried in practice some of which he would then sneak into a game plan. His Houston offenses tallied 563 yards per game passing for 433.07 and totaling mare than 42.2 points per game.
In 2010 he took the OC post at Oklahoma State where the Cowboys’ offense was ranked #61 in the nation in total offense yet in his first season they led the nation in total offense, averaging 537.6 yards per play and was #2 in passing offense and #3 in scoring offense. It’s most impressive considering OSU lost most of their starters on offense yet still averaged 44 points per game and 10 wins in the Big 12. When West Virginia decided to explore coaching changes, Holgerson was an obvious choice because the Mountaineers were determined to revitalize their stale offense.
He has a “never good enough” philosophy (just ask Texas Tech grad Wes Welker) that holds players accountable and he believes in holding his receivers to a higher standard on every snap. Known for his unconventional work habits, he watches video alone in the early morning while drinking some of nearly a dozen sugar-free Red Bulls he likes to consume. He’s a perfectionist when it comes to execution and his Air Raid scheme requires practice, practice, practice to become second nature. The strength of his philosophy comes in developing players over time through years of repetition and this surely translates to WVa, as it is a very young team.
Coach Holgerson is not afraid to innovate and brave enough to bring something unique to offensive college football where conformity is all too often the norm.