Tossing it around with OC Dana Holgorsen

"Using the stuff from Texas Tech is nothing new to Houston nor really to anyone else here in C-USA West, you are going to see it every game, so that's the challenge, we are not going to back down, and it will be a challenge." - Houston OC Dana Holgorsen

DD - Tell us a little about the offenses of C-USA West.
DH – If you look at the offenses of Conference USA West, the challenge of my part is one, what are we going to do about throwing the ball around here at Houston, but two, competing against all the great offenses of C-USA West. You have Mike Price over at UTEP who traditionally uses four wides and was at Washington State throwing the ball around breaking all kinds of records. I have a lot of respect for his accomplishments and knowledge. Then you have June Jones over at SMU, he is going to spread it and throw it more than we are and more than we did at Tech. You have Malzahn at Tulsa who is an impressive offensive guy. Tulane is a little more traditional use of four wides, when we were at Tech, we used to go to Tulane to pick their brains about offensive football. Now you have the guys at Rice doing the same things, they use four wides and throw it all over the place. You have teams whose offensive philosophy is pretty much the same. Using the stuff from Texas Tech is nothing new to Houston nor really to anyone else here in C-USA West, you are going to see it every game, so that's the challenge, we are not going to back down, and it will be a challenge.

DD - Why did you decide to make the move to Houston, a C-USA school from a similar position at Texas Tech, a BCS school? Tell us about how you felt in the beginning, how it developed and how you feel about it now.
DH – Well, I feel better about it now than I did in the beginning actually, but really when I made the decision it was pretty easy. To me it is all about, one, that I obviously wanted to have complete control of the offense, at Texas Tech and I had been with Leach for a long, long time, about 11 seasons, I have a tremendous amount of respect for what he does and what he has accomplished, but he is always going to be hands-on with the offense and that is never going to change so in order for me to put my stamp on the offense, I had to break away from him. That was pretty easy to do, but I didn't want to do it just to do it, I wanted to do it because this is a good situation.

DD – Here at Houston, you have a place where you can succeed.
DH – And that's my point. Being in football, it doesn't matter what level you are on, it is about having a chance to win. Right now at Texas Tech, they are in that position, eight years ago they were not. When we lined up back then we didn't always have a chance to win, now they do and I didn't want to leave a situation like that to go to a place where when we lined up we were hoping we could win. Right now the mentality around here, with Coach Sumlin, the school, the community is that every time we line up we are going to have a chance to win. So to me that is what coaching football is all about. It doesn't matter what level it is or what conference it is, it is about getting kids to line up have confidence, feel good about themselves and to get wins. From that standpoint, that is what made the decision for me and being able to work with Kevin. You know, I coached against Kevin for seven years, he is one of the most respected guys in our profession, one of the most well liked guys, being able to work with him and to get in his little clique was important as well.

DD - What is the hardest thing for a QB to learn in your system? It seems like a Tech they just plugged in a new guy every year.
DH – It is just about knowing where to go with the ball more than anything. We put a lot on the quarterback, we spend hour and hours and hours looking at film, one, to learn what we are trying to do and two, preparing for a game or looking at what the defense is doing so we can get in the best position every play. We also allow the QB to check every play under center. We try to give them the plays they need, but when they line up, if it is the wrong play for the defense in front of them, it is the QB's job to put in the right play.

DD – That's a change as Art called every play and gave little to no latitude to the QBs.
DH – You know, the offenses are not similar.

DD – Yes, I understand that, if you look at the run/pass ratio, Art's offense had more run than pass, probably close to 60/40 run although the passing aspect is what got all the press.
DH – I think that's about right in Art's offense. Contrary to popular belief, the offense we ran at Tech and the offense we will run here are not similar to what Art ran here. One of the biggest differences was that Art's guys were not just learning one position, they were learning multiple positions learning what and where to line up and then what to do. Not that there is anything wrong with as we have a tremendous amount of respect for Art and what he does with the ball. Our philosophy is that we want to line the guys up, teach them what to do and once they know that, they can get comfortable, now we can focus technique-wise on what they need to do to be successful. What we are trying to do now is trying to figure out what guys need to line up where, getting the right guys in the right spots and the getting them comfortable so they can more easily learn their position and then improve on it.

DD – That's going to be really important as we have a big test coming up quick in Stillwater.
DH – Oh yeah, but I'm more worried about Southern.

DD – Is that right?
DH - We try to take them one at a time, it is important not to look ahead. If you want to look at the most important games we have it is the five in Conference USA West, but the one that we are preparing for right now is Southern. Obviously, Oklahoma State is pretty good, I've played four games in Stillwater and only won once, it is a tough place to play. On the other hand, Oklahoma State played four games in Lubbock and got stomped all four times.

DD – They got beat the last time they were here.
DH – That's right, they did. We fully expect to win that game. What we try to instill in these guys offensively is really to ignore who we are playing, we have to get the looks, we have to know where their people are, but we want them to ignore who they are and just worry about what we are doing. Execute. I told the guys before the spring game that regardless of whether we are going ones on threes, threes on ones, whatever, we are going to line up and we are going to expect you too execute what we are asking you to do. For the most part, they did, so we just do not need to worry about anything but getting better at what we do.

DD - Speaking of run/pass ratio what do you see as ideal in your offense?
DH – It will vary by game. It is all about the numbers, how defenses are going to play us.

DD – Is it about what's working?
DH – It is about what's working, but it is also about what they are doing to us. If they are doing things that will allow us to run the ball 40 times, we may do that, but then there will be games where we run it only 10-20 times. A lot of that is going to be dictated by the QB seeing it and getting in the right play. I'm going to script our plays, but I'm not going to script it to say we are going to five runs and five passes, it will change as we see what they are giving us. It is based on the QB checking at the line of scrimmage.

DD – At the end of the season, if you had to predict a number, what would you say?
DH – Probably, 25 percent run would be my best guess. It is going to vary week to week.

DD - One criticism of high-octane offenses is that they don't give the defense time to rest, and so games inevitably end up being shootouts. I interviewed Alfred Oglesby, who put in some time in the NFL, a few years ago and he was telling me that in the Run and Shoot that the defense might be on the field for 80-90 plays and that they had to be tough as nails and btw, those defenses were. Is that criticism over-hyped? Is managing the clock part of your offense?
DH – That's a question that we have had to deal with for quite some time, you know, the Time of Possession is the most irrelevant stat in college football. It is one that very, very few coaches pay attention to. The only thing that matters is that you want to line up with the ball more times than they do and the score at the end of the game. I do not understand when people think that it is a bad thing to score quickly. Isn't the point of the game to score and score often?

DD - What can you tell us in regard to the QB situation?
DH – We've got Case and Blake with different skills, but skills we can use. We are not ready to say that one guy is ahead of the other.

DD - It would have been nice to see the speed of Avery and Alridge in your offense. While it is near impossible to replace their speed, who this spring has taken steps to fill their shoes?
DH – Yeah, I wish they were coming back. We are looking at a lot of guys, but other than Hafner, they have not caught a lot of balls in college games.

DD - How are the new receivers are progressing?
DH – We are just trying to get them all a lot of catches. If you came to our practices and I know you did, you saw that. We have a few guys from last year's team and we brought in some JUCO guys and we are just going to put them out there and see who performs best. At least the JUCO guys have caught some balls in a college game.

DD - How do you plan to use LJ Castile?
DH – LJ has a lot of talent and will make some catches this year, he just needs to work on technique and catch a lot of balls in practice.

DD - How much adjustment do the receivers make after the play is snapped?
DH – We want them to run their routes, it is not like the Run and Shoot in that regard. They need to learn their routes and then execute.

DD - How do you plan to handle using so many good backs in a one-RB set?
DH – Right now, we are looking at all of them and the new guys as well. It is going to depend on who can catch the ball, run well and pass protect. We've run this offense with all kinds of RBs and it all comes down to the fundamentals and who does them the best.

DD - How's the OL shaping up?
DH – There doing well. We are trying to teach them a new system and this is an area where we have some good ones coming back. Our system is completely different from what they had been taught before.

DD - How's Vollmer coming along?
DH – He is doing fine, he is a big physical specimen with a lot of upside.

DD - Does he have a shot at the NFL?
DH – Yes, he and SirVincent and some others do if the keep working and getting better. What the scouts look at is production as a senior, if you have it you get on their list, this is why they must continue to work and improve.

DD - Is SVR 100 percent?
DH – Yes, he is a good one and will really help us. He just over powers his guy, so much so that at times it looks like he is doing something illegal, but he is not.

DD - You are known as a very good recruiter, what areas will you be recruiting for UH?
DH – I'm going to go where the offensive guys are. I'm not going to have an assigned area, just go where I need to go to the offensive guys we need. Obviously, I recruited the Houston area and know the coaches here. They have received us well and come out to our practices. It is a lot easier to get kids and coaches out here, it was a long trip for many to Lubbock.

DD - At what positions do we need to concentrate our recruiting efforts?
DH – That is going to change every year. We have not had a QB recruit in a while so wee need a couple of those and some guys that can catch the ball.

DD - What qualities do you seek when recruiting offensive lineman for your offense?
DH – Long arms and good feet. Guys that move well and then we can turn them over to Coach Jackson and let him develop them.

DD - Without divulging anything specific, do potential QB recruits seem excited about playing in the new offense, and do you think it will help us get a good one or two in February?
DH – We have our list and there are some good ones on it, but the truth is that in Texas there are a lot of quarterbacks that are about the same.

DD - How did the recent camp go?
DH – It went well and was well attended, We saw a few guys we liked and will keep an eye on them.

DD - Who is more aggressive, you or Leach?
DH – Leach is no question. We had to try to get him to punt, he is so confident that he goes for it a lot.

DD - How does Houston fit your lifestyle?
DH – It is great. One of the things that I liked about recruiting Houston was being able to come down here.

DD - Anything to tell the fans?
DH – Just to get ready for some exciting football and come on out to the games. It is going to be fun.

Cougar Digest Top Stories