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Dear Mountaineer fans, stop blaming Dana Holgorsen


West Virginia football took a beating Saturday, losing to the Missouri Tigers 38-7. Without fail, fans blamed former head coach Dana Holgorsen. Stop it.

Whether you like Dana Holgorsen or not, he is the second-winningest head coach in WVU football history. He won 61 career games with the Mountaineers and twice led them to 10-win campaigns. Holgorsen was a habitual over-achiever at West Virginia.

RELATED: Game-by-game predictions for WVU in 2019

Recruiting’s never been easy at WVU either, but Holgorsen made things work during a transitioning period. Eight of the program’s top 20 recruits arrived during his time at the helm. He also took them from the Big East to the Big 12 while remaining competitive, something that’s often overlooked when viewing his time in Morgantown. He did it without much success recruiting signal-callers, too.

He played a transfer at quarterback for six straight seasons after inheriting Geno Smith from the previous regime. And that’s on him, sure — not bringing in quarterbacks and developing them — but Holgorsen always managed to make it work.

Clint Trickett arrived from Florida State and threw for nearly 5,000 yards in his two seasons of play. Skyler Howard, a junior college transfer, took the reins after Trickett and scored 76 career touchdowns over three years. In addition to his numbers, Howard quarterbacked the Mountaineers to a 10-win campaign in 2016.

Following Howard was Florida transfer Will Grier. He flashed brilliance every time he stepped on the field and was the perfect quarterback for Holgorsen’s system. Also, he blessed WVU fans with a memorable victory over Texas in Austin. Horns Down.

However, Ford Childress was a four-star quarterback that never panned out. Neither did three-star recruits William Crest or Chris Chugonov. But if we’re going to indict Holgorsen on the players he missed on, he deserves credit for the talent he did pile up. Here are highlights from each of his recruiting classes.

  • 2012: K.J. Dillon, Mark Glowinski, Karl Joseph, Tyler Orlosky, Noble Nwachukwu
  • 2013: Mario Alford, Al-Rasheed Benton, Shelton Gibson, Wendell Smallwood, Kevin White, Daryl Worley
  • 2014: Dravon Askew-Henry, Yodny Cajuste, William Crest, Xavier Preston
  • 2015: Rasul Douglas, Gary Jennings, David Long, Colton McKivitz, David Sills, Ka’Raun White
  • 2016: Toyous Avery, Chase Behrndt, Justin Crawford, Kennedy McKoy, Martell Pettaway, Jeffery Pooler, Josh Sills, Marcus Simms, JoVanni Stewart, Trevon Wesco
  • 2017: Hakeem Bailey, Tevin Bush, Exree Loe, Derrek Pitts, Quondarius Qualls, Kenny Robinson, Ezekiel Rose, Alec Sinkfield, Darius Stills, Kelby Wickline
  • 2018: Leddie Brown, Josh Chandler, Sam James, Josh Norwood, Kwantel Raines, Dante Stills, Keith Washington

Not a single player listed above was a five-star recruit, and plenty were JuCo transfers that made legitimate impacts upon arrival — the White brothers, Rasul Douglas, Justin Crawford and Ezekiel Rose to name a few. And the players from the 2016-18 classes are still contributing this year, although some have chased greener pastures elsewhere.

Did Holgorsen really leave the cupboard bare? Some may have this opinion, but I beg to differ.

Twenty players on the above list are playing for WVU this year. Trevon Wesco’s in the NFL now, so he doesn’t make the cut, while Derrek Pitts and Kenny Robinson entered the transfer portal in June. Is Holgorsen really to blame for those two leaving, though? If they had moved on following his departure in January, I could see where he garners some blame — not wanting to play for a coach that didn’t recruit them and all. But five months after Holgorsen left, and he’s still catching flak for Pitts and Robinson leaving? I just don’t understand that.

Marcus Simms is another one. He entered the NFL’s Supplemental Draft in July after sitting most of spring practice. Again, that’s not Holgorsen’s fault, either.

If Mountaineer fans are truly going to buy in to first-year head coach Neal Brown, they’ll need to #TrustTheClimb. That means letting go of whatever ill-will they have toward Holgorsen. After all, he wasn’t the one to bail after blowing the biggest game in program history against the school’s biggest rival — that was Rich Rodriguez.

Next: 10 best individual seasons under Dana Holgorsen at WVU

As long as WVU fans are looking behind them at what Holgorsen didn’t do, though, they’ll never fully appreciate what lies ahead with their brilliant new head coach Neal Brown.

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