The expected influence of new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell on the West Virginia offense has been well-documented throughout this spring.
Harrell joined the Mountaineer coaching staff after a successful stint with USC, where his offenses were among the best in the Pac-12 Conference.
According to WVU head coach Neal Brown, one of the things that makes Harrell and his system successful is the way it’s easily grasped by those running it. But it’s equally hard to handle for those trying to stop it.
“I think he’s got answers. I think his teaching of the quarterback within the pass game, I’ve been impressed with. It’s simple for the offensive players, but it’s complex defensively,” Brown said Tuesday. “He’s done a really good job making rules within it.”
Harrell, who graduated from Texas Tech as one of the most-prolific passers in college football history, has continued to excel in the passing game as a coordinator.
USC’s offense led the Pac-12 Conference each of the past two seasons in passing yards per game.
Harrell, 36, now looks to do the same with WVU. For Brown, that success begins with communication.
“It’s his way of teaching the staff, and the staff teaching the players, has been productive,” said the fourth-year head coach. “We haven’t had very many missed assignments. And you know, when introducing a new offense, that’s something that’s not usually the case.”
West Virginia isn’t planning to announce its Week 1 starter this spring. That will happen later, likely after the arrival of transfer JT Daniels, who has been added to a three-headed quarterback battle between Garrett Greene, Nicco Marchiol, and Will “Goose” Crowder.
While Harrell’s input will be seen all over the passing game this fall, his touch in the running attack may be more subtle.
“Within the run game, I think he’s done a nice job of, formationally, getting us some advantages,” said Brown.
The head coach added the Mountaineers will continue to do things in the running game that they were doing prior to Harrell’s arrival.
“I think he’s grown as well with some things that we’ve done here in the past well, as far as RPOs, and some things in the screen game,” Brown added. “I don’t want to speak until we get all 15 [practices] done, but I like the progress we’re making.”
When it comes to the offensive line, whose job it is to protect Harrell’s quarterback and create lanes and space for the running backs, not much has changed.
Not only do the same five starting linemen return for this season, but Harrell has left a number of calls regarding the line of scrimmage the same.
To Brown that “showed humility” from the new offensive coordinator, deciding to learn from the experienced offensive line, rather than making them learn his verbiage. That’s something that Harrell said he was going to do early in his tenure with WVU, and he has followed suit.
While Harrell has followed the lead of the line, at least from a communication stand point, it remains to be seen if the offense, as a whole, will follow his lead, and continue the success he’s had in recent seasons.
Fans will get their first glimpse of the new offense on Saturday during the annual Gold-Blue Spring Game, which begins at 1 p.m. ET at Milan Puskar Stadium.