Familiar Ground

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Once Doc Holliday accepted the head coaching job at Marshall, WVU director of high school relations Pat Kirkland again stepped up to take over the duties of a departed West Virginia assistant in bowl preparation.

Holliday, who had served as the Mountaineers' tight ends and fullbacks coach, as well as the program's recruiting coordinator, left the team last week to take over in Huntington.

That created a void on the West Virginia coaching staff for the upcoming Konica Minolta Gator Bowl. Kirkland was the pick of WVU head coach Bill Stewart to serve as Holliday's replacement, at least on an interim basis.

It's a big responsibility, but one Kirkland faced before. After Rich Rodriguez and many of his staff members left for Michigan before the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Stewart tabbed Kirkland to take over for Tony Gibson as the team's interim secondary coach.

While the fullbacks and tight ends have had to adjust to Kirkland, the former graduate assistant (who had previously spent most of his time working on defense) has had to adjust to coaching offensive players.

"I was on the field a lot more with the defensive side of the ball," he said. "Now, it's a little bit of a transition."

"The nice thing is, (tight end) Tyler Urban, (fullback) Ryan Clarke and (tight end) Will Johnson have all done a great job throughout the year. My job is, really, more or less, getting them prepared to play Florida State."

Coaching offense for the first time in some time may be a bigger adjustment, but Kirkland will also have to once again reacquaint himself with coaching from the press box.

While serving as defensive coordinator at Glenville State, he viewed the contest from up above. However, the majority of his time at West Virginia has been spent coaching from the sidelines.

Being a part of the coaching staff's eyes in the sky, part of Kirkland's game day duties will likely involve watching particular match-ups and tendencies of the Seminoles' defense and relaying pertinent information to Mountaineer offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen.

"Everybody's got a role," said Kirkland of life as part of the group of coaches in the press box.

"Pre-snap and prior to the play, a lot of communication takes place. I'm going to be geared into specific things and really doing anything else I can do to help coach Mullen better prepare himself for the next play."

While Kirkland may not bring a wealth of offensive coaching experience to his new duties, having the eyes of a defensive coach could help him better point out to his players what reactions defenders may have to their techniques.

In that way, having a different set of eyes on the fullbacks and tight ends could help them get better in each of WVU's pre-bowl practices.

"One of the things I told those guys, I said, ‘If you want to continue to get better as a player, you've got to know what those guys across from you are being coached to do,'" said Kirkland.

"Now we can anticipate a little bit more and be prepared more pre-snap for what their assignment is. Definitely, that's something I've taken with me and I can help them with."

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