NCAA FB

West Virginia's offense in flux after Smith's exit

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP)

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen's offenses are often described as prolific. This season, rebuilding is a better description.

Holgorsen has had a quarterback surpass 4,000 yards passing in his system every year since 2005 when he was offensive coordinator at Texas Tech and later at Houston and Oklahoma State. In three of those years, the quarterback surpassed 5,000 yards.

With Geno Smith gone and his replacement still undecided, Holgorsen's offense is in transition and this might be the year a solid group of running backs take control.

Holgorsen wants to move the ball any way he can. He's just not sure yet who'll be the primary movers when the Mountaineers play William & Mary on Saturday.

''There's going to be a lot of questions answered,'' he said Tuesday.

West Virginia averaged 39 points per game in Holgorsen's first two seasons. The 4,292 passing yards a year ago comprised two-thirds of the offensive output, even though the Mountaineers threw the ball a little more than half of the time.

Now consider Florida State transfer Clint Trickett and longtime Smith backup Paul Millard, who are sharing the snaps in practice this week. Both have yet to start a game in Holgorsen's system.

Trickett attempted 34 passes last season. Fellow junior Millard tried that many passes in the last two years combined.

''Would I rather have a three-year starter returning at quarterback?'' Holgorsen said. ''What we're dealing with right now is what 30 or 40 or 50 other schools are dealing with right now. It's college football and graduation. That opens the door for the next star to be born as well.''

He said the quarterback who minimizes his mistakes will take the most snaps.

''I'm not going to sit here and worry or lose sleep or gripe or moan,'' he said. ''I'm excited about the guys we've got. Somebody will rise up.''

That somebody might come from the guy playing alongside the quarterback.

The prospects are bright at running back, starting with Houston transfer Charles Sims, who was the Conference USA freshman of the year in 2009 when Holgorsen was the Cougars' offensive coordinator.

Sims is penciled in as the starter in the opener with freshman Wendell Smallwood, junior college transfer Dreamius Smith and veteran Dustin Garrison behind him in that order. It's been years since the Mountaineers have boasted of so much depth at the position.

It's so deep that junior Andrew Buie, the team's leading rusher in 2012 with 851 yards and one of three players on the front cover of the team's media guide, will redshirt this season.

''He just hasn't developed mentally and physically,'' Holgorsen said. ''He had some decisions. Some of these are decisions that he makes as well. Did we force him to? No. We just felt like it was in the best interest of him and the best interest of the future of our program to save his year.''

Sims, Garrison and Buie each have 200-yard games in their careers.

Like Trickett and Millard, the running back who does best in what amounts to an audition on Saturday becomes the go-to guy.

''I don't know how it's going to go,'' Holgorsen said. ''When we hand the ball off, if it looks good and we're getting yards, we'll probably do it again. Same thing in the pass game. If we're protecting fine and we're throwing it, we're completing balls, we'll do that more as well. They're all going to play.

''We have bodies that can give us snaps back there and I feel very good about it.''

Tagged: West Virginia, Charles Sims, Geno Smith, Clint Trickett, Dreamius Smith, Paul Millard

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