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WVU Offense Has Big Shoes to Fill

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MORGANTOWN -

Thursday's pro day will precede West Virginia's third spring football practice.

The key components of one of the nation's most explosive offenses will gather in front of NFL scouts to prove they belong on the professional level.

A few hours later, just across from where those former Mountaineers will work out, the current Mountaineers will take the field, trying to get a grasp of Dana Holgorsen's offensive scheme.

These players will be the ones following in the footsteps of those that are preparing for a career in the NFL. Take a second to think about what all WVU loses on offense.

Possibly the best duo of receivers West Virginia has ever seen, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, will be gone. Both players were listed on All-America teams, and each will be taken in the NFL draft. Austin had a good enough scouting combine that he very well may go in the first round, and some are projecting Bailey as high as the second round. J.D. Woods will join these two on pro day.

Then, of course, there's Geno Smith, who is projected to be the first quarterback taken in the draft. That could very well mean a top ten pick, and a shot at a starting position in the league next season.

Just for good measure, Pat White will be attempting an NFL comeback this year. He'll be participating in the pro day, as well.

On Mountaineer Field, a group of quarterbacks that have a combined zero starts in NCAA ball will be warming up. The leading returning wide receiver, Jordan Thompson, had just 85 yards last season. Running back Andrew Buie actually has the most receiving yards of any returning player.

This is an offense with a lot of talent to replace, and even more experience to replace. But this is nothing new.

"Everybody gets all up in arms about, 'Oh my gosh, how are these guys going to play football? Because they don't have a couple of guys that are going to get drafted and move onto the NFL,'" said Holgorsen. "Well, it happens every year- every different program across the country. You lose people, and you try to move forward. For me personally, I'm excited to do it."

OK, so maybe West Virginia is losing a lot more than usual. This is arguably the best draft class WVU has ever sent to the NFL. That doesn't mean that the younger players can't step up, though.

There will be a healthy competition at quarterback, the receiving corps gets the addition of a few junior college transfers that could have an immediate impact, and the offensive line does return players like Pat Eger and Quinton Spain.

There are still a lot of losses, though, and some newer players are going to have to step up.

"It gives young guys opportunities to where they say, 'Now I'm the guy. I better step up and I better start playing a lot better than I did the previous year,'" Holgorsen said. "And that just naturally happens. Guys get older, they get more reps, but then also, the burden is on their shoulders, and they become players. I'm looking forward to seeing who these guys are going to be."

This spring has a completely different feeling from last spring. Last year, it was all about how good West Virginia was going to be. With that talent in Holgorsen's offense, this team was going to be able to score at will.

This year, young players are learning the offense. Holgorsen said that it feels a little like two years ago when he was first implementing his offense. That took place with the players that are now focusing on a football career.

Right now, it's West Virginia's job to focus on replacing them.

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