West Virginia's Athletic Director Oliver Luck expressed his trust in WVU's head football coach Dana Holgorsen after last season's disappointing finish, but can the fans say the same?
A new move by Holgorsen and company found the WVU Football team going "on tour" this offseason by holding several open practices in different areas of West Virginia.
"I think it is good for us get out and show everybody how much work we've been doing," said Holgorsen following the team's final open practice that was held in Charleston on Saturday. "Our guys get excited about being able to wake up and get in a spring practice, and play in front of a bunch of people. It kind of gets them cranked up."
"I've never seen Charleston," said K.J. Dillon. "It's nice to see the fans, a part of West Virginia you've never seen. It's good stuff. The fans love, we love it."
This is something Holgorsen hasn't done during his previous seasons and many speculate it's a maneuver by Holgorsen to earn the trust back from the Mountaineer faithful.
After soaring past Clemson in the 2012 Orange Bowl game many believed this could be the turning point for the WVU Football program. The following year saw a downward spiral of promising talent; the downward spiral resulted in a loss to Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl.The spiral didn't stop there as last season's team sank even lower, finishing 4-8 and missing a bowl game for the fist time since 2001.
There was the usual outcry for Holgorsen's head that comes with any team finishing a season with a losing record while on the flipside the true old gold and blue fans have stuck by the Mountaineers' side through thick and thin.
However, more than ever it seems Holgorsen's job could be in jeopardy following last year's lousy season. Ever since Holgorsen was brought in many fans didn't quite see the "Mountaineer pride" in him like they did former head coach Bill Stewart.
This upcoming season will have Holgorsen in the spot light as he could be coaching for his job. Another season like last should have Holgorsen on his way out of the Mountain State.
This brings up the question, were these open practice a move to earn back trust from a disgruntled WVU fan base?
You have to believe it was and yes, it worked, to some degree.
It's a good move on program's part as it allowed the absence of Mountaineer football to come back into the lives of fans during the offseason. Usually the fans would have to wait until the annual Blue and Gold Spring Game to get a taste of what to expect for the upcoming season.
WVU has held open practices in Wheeling, Morgantown and Charleston, all of which have garnered large crowds. Saturday's practice in Charleston saw over 5,000 Mountaineer fans gather to watch the team.
"There's a little more people in the stands," said punter Nick O'Toole when comparing an open practice to a normal one. "When they started chanting ‘Let's Go Mountaineers' it got everyone fired up. It's just a great atmosphere out here."
"It's one area [Charleston] of these open practices that I didn't take into consideration," said Holgorsen. "It simulates a bit like a road game. We have to get on the bus, travel and keep our minds clear on the task at hand. We have to be able to ignore things and play ball. It's really been good and I look forward to watching our players play out there."
Holding open practices isn't going to win over every fan and it's certainly not going to win over the quote-on-quote veteran Mountaineer fans. It's a baby step in the right direction for a WVU football team that needs its identity back.
Open practices are a good start while a solid signing day was an added bonus for Holgorsen reputation but the solution is simple.
For fans to instill their trust in Holgorsen, Holgorsen needs to motivate his players, get recruits to play at WVU and most importantly win games.