Imminent Impact

Brandon Hogan figures to see the ball more in West Virginia's newly styled spread. That figures to be problematic for defenses.

With new offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen promising not to pass more, but rather to have viable options when one aspect of the offense is slowed, Hogan could emerge as a major threat. Much like Darius Reynaud last season, the Virginia native has the quickness, speed and ball skills to combine multiple threats. At 6-0 and 170 pounds, Hogan has solid size, yet a low center of gravity that makes tackling difficult. Add in the raw athleticism and the ability to pass – Hogan played quarterback at Osbourn High in Manassas, Va. – and fan base tongues collectively wag.

His H-wideout, one of two slot spots, has a series of plays designed to get athletes into space. Mullen, with help from running backs and slot receivers coach Chris Beatty and others, has installed runs out of the slot and the basic throw down the line of scrimmage that sets up as an edge rush. Those options, along with a flare or two (read: end around, reverses, etc.), should maximize the position possibilities without the need for unnecessary risks.

"We got a couple runs for the slots, with a jet motion," Hogan said of a play style within the offense, rather than a term dictating the tempo of the sets, as jet was under the former staff. "They just hike the ball and give it to us. I guess you could say screens, too. We catch a couple of those."

But don't anticipate a series of trickery. Mullen, like former coordinator Calvin Magee, believes in solid gains on each play and not taking unrealistic chances. What's thought to be reasonable in terms of risk and reward could differ, though that has yet to be seen. The idea remains allowing one's best players to touch the ball as often as possible in the finest conditions in which to excel. It's a concept often mentioned, though not often realized, in the latter years under Rich Rodriguez.

That, along with the personality differences and an insistence on a player-first approach within the Puskar Center and a team-first penchant in the film room has lightened the mood while upping the potential for what could be. No more running when it's been stopped or using just two to three threats when five are viable with some thought.

"He's a mellow type guy," Hogan said of Beatty, whose Landstown High (Va.) team would have played Osbourn High if the latter had not lost in the previous playoff round. "He isn't really with all that yelling. Just don't make him look bad, he says. He saw me play in high school so her knows the things I can do."

Hogan caught 12 passes for 67 yards in 10 games played, but never carried the ball from scrimmage. That makes him the third-leading returning receiver on the team, a showcase of how underused the passing game was – especially in the middle, where defenses were most susceptible, as shown in the Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma.

"We really didn't throw the ball over the middle like that (before)," Hogan said. "Now we have a lot of high-low plays. It's hard because of the ‘backers and defensive line, then not too far because the safety is there. But Pat (White) can make that (throw). It's kinda hard because the ‘backers try to wall you off. But you get used to it, figure out how to get around it and things like that. … I'm just ready to get started and help the freshman. I was hungry last year and trying to get time, so I know how they feel."


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