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WVU coaches familiar with Miami counterparts |

WVU coaches familiar with Miami counterparts

| Friday, December 16, 2016 5:51 p.m.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen prepares to lead his team onto the field before playing Baylor on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va. West Virginia won 24-21.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen prepares to lead his team onto the field before playing Baylor on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, W.Va. West Virginia won 24-21.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With West Virginia’s Russell Athletic Bowl date less than two weeks away, the Mountaineers are in the process of taking a look at the Miami Hurricanes.

And when WVU peers across at the Miami sideline Dec. 28, the players will see a bunch of familiar faces, starting with one of Mountaineer coach Dana Holgorsen’s personal inspirations: Miami coach Mark Richt.

“Coach Richt has been one of my coaching idols for a long time,” Holgorsen said. “Just the success that he’s had when he was at Georgia, and it really goes back to the success that he had when he was at Florida State. I always watched what he did.”

But while Holgorsen wasn’t a Mountaineer the last time WVU faced Richt — the 2006 Sugar Bowl, when Pat White’s Mountaineers took out Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs in a 38-35 win. Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson was coach.

Gibson was Rich Rodriguez’s defensive backs coach that season, and, along with defensive line coach Bruce Tall, is one of two WVU coaches who were on the Mountaineer sideline that night.

When Gibson looks back at the 2006 Sugar Bowl, he doesn’t see much of a difference between that Georgia team and the pro-style offense Richt and offensive coordinator Thomas Brown run at Miami.

“I’ve studied that film a little bit, and it’s very similar what they’re doing now at Miami to what they were doing in 2006,” Gibson said. “They’re a run team first, a lot of power. They’re old school.”

While Gibson concerns himself with stopping the Hurricanes offense, Holgorsen hopes his familiarity with Miami’s defensive personnel will help his offense get an edge. Miami’s defense improved to 13th best in the country (18.9 points per game) in its first year under coordinator Manny Diaz, whom Holgorsen faced — and defeated 48-45 — in 2012 during his stint running the Texas Longhorns defense.

Holgorsen also is well-acquainted with other members of the Hurricanes defensive staff and has observed in Miami the process of a new group of coaches melding together ideas and packages.

“I’ve competed against (Diaz) for a long time,” Holgorsen said. “He plays a lot of odd fronts, likes to blitz, just got guys coming from everywhere. Coupled with (Craig Kuligowski), their defensive line coach, I’ve known him for forever. He’s considered probably the best defensive line coach in the country. They’re a four-down front, so they’ve kind of merged the two, which is an interesting dynamic to watch.”

Holgorsen hopes he’ll have a full complement of players at his disposal in Orlando. He said Friday that, save for defensive lineman Jaleel Fields, he expects all of his short-term injured players ready for the bowl game — though he acknowledged he could end up with one or two players being ruled academically ineligible.

David Statman is a freelance writer.

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