There may be more attention paid by West Virginia University buffs on spring football this year than ever before.
In a word, transition.
There's a changing of the guard at WVU from the revamping of the coaching staff to a new-look offensive scheme.
With eyes focused on Morgantown, the annual Gold-Blue Spring Game on Friday night at Mylan Puskar Stadium will be an early work-in-progress peak at what can be expected when WVU opens the season Sunday, Sept. 4 against Marshall.
I've learned through the years that little can be judged from controlled, limited spring football exhibitions but that it can be a showcase for some of the younger players to display their talents and make a bid for playing time in the fall. Often times, there's a player or two who emerges in the spring game who will make a splash when the games count in the standings.
In WVU's case this spring, a spotlight has been shown on first-year offensive coordinator DANA HOLGORSEN and three other new aides on the staff. Holgorsen is a head coach-in-waiting since he will take over the reins from fourth-year mentor BILL STEWART for the 2012 season.
That can be an awkward situation and one which has drawn a lot of attention.
Here's a checklist of what fans also should look for as spring drills wind up Friday at the annual Gold-Blue Game:
(1) What's the major differences in the new offensive scheme instituted by Holgorsen and staff and last year?
(2) GENO SMITH returns at quarterback but who will be his backup? The depth chart has two freshmen, PAUL MILLARD and BRIAN ATHLEY vying for that role.
(3) Who's going to be the No. 1 running back to replace NOEL DEVINE? It seems a different name pops up at about every scrimmage in the two running back format.
(4) With four offensive line starters returning, will that be an improved area from last season?
(5) Will rush ends JULIAN MILLER and BRUCE IRVIN be consistent forces for the defensive unit?
(6) Can newcomer BRANKO BUSICK, from Steubenville, handle the middle linebacker role after playing in only three games?
(7) Will some of the younger defensive backs step up and emerge in the secondary?
(8) Will this be the season that touted TAVON AUSTIN takes over as an all-star receiver or will someone else, like TYLER URBAN, STEDMAN BAILEY, BRAD STARKS or COLEY WHITE, be the go-to player in this pass-oriented attack?
Besides all those questions, the weekend will feature several functions with a football tradition theme. Football alumni will meet Thursday for a reunion.
On Friday, a luncheon roast for retiring academic administrator GARRETT FORD will be held before an auction and Chalk Talk session featuring four former Mountaineer coaches - DON NEHLEN, FRANK CIGNETTI, BOBBY BOWDEN and JIM CARLEN. Those four also will serve as honorary coaches of the Gold-Blue Old-Timers Game at 7 p.m. The two teams will be quarterbacked by MAJOR HARRIS and PAT WHITE. The Gold-Blue Game follows the old-timers' scrimmage.
Football will be in the air next weekend in Mo-Town.
The first-year WVU athletics director can't escape controversy.
The latest to draw attention is his hiring of BRADY ACKERMAN for ''consultant services'' for $50,010 for a six-month period from Jan. 15-July 15.
Ackerman, who has worked the last 10 years in radio and television, most recently in Ocala, Fla., tweeted on the Internet on Feb. 19 ''I am joining my good friend Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia to help him win championships. I will be on the football staff.'' He later added that he is ''overseeing football academics and will handle summer camps, too.''
Ackerman traveled to New York City with Holgorsen for the Big East Basketball Tournament.
But within three weeks of signing a contract, shortly after the tournament, Ackerman and WVU parted ways. Luck told a Morgantown newspaper that Ackerman had ''finished his work.'' The paper said sources told them the break was made after ''inappropriate behavior '' at an event at the tournament.
The newspaper also reported that from 1990-2005 in his home state of Florida, Ackerman had been cited for a variety of traffic offenses, including DUI's, possession of a falsified driver's license, leaving the scene of an accident, and other charges.
Enjoy the Easter weekend.