The Colorado Buffaloes are in the midst of finding their next head football coach. We’re here to break down the top candidates and grade them based on how they would fit in at Colorado. Every grade is weighted on importance, and like any hard-working CU student, each coach is taking 17 credits.
Resume (3 credits)
Horgorsen has built a standout reputation at West Virginia, where he has gone 61-39 (61%) in eight seasons. In all but one year (2013) his teams were both ranked in the top 25 and made a bowl game. Twice his teams have finished with 10 wins (2011 and 2016) and this year’s team is currently 8-2. He’s 2-4 in bowl games, so the results are mediocre there, but he did have that infamous 70-33 win over Clemson in the 2011 Orange Bowl.
The Mountaineers were nationally relevant with the late Bill Stewart and Rich Rodriguez before him, but Holgo kept them at the high level after they made the difficult transition into the Big XII.
Before coaching in Morgantown, he had spent time as offensive coordinator and QB coach at Oklahoma State (2010), Houston (2008-09) and Texas Tech (2007). All of those teams had elite offenses and finished were consistently in or around the Top 25.
Holgorsen certainly had talented players at every stop, but aside from one season (2013), he’s had nothing but success with fun teams.
A disciple of Mike Leach, Holgorsen’s teams are everything good Darrin Chiaverini has tried to implement. A former QB coach, he runs an air-it-out spread that is very QB friendly and makes the most out of his offensive weapons. Despite defensive issues and recruiting challenges, he’s always had a good offense at the very least. When he has a good QB and versatile playmakers, there’s nothing stopping his team from blowing up scoreboards. At Colorado, the trio of Steven Montez, Laviska Shenault Jr. and K.D. Nixon would resemble the cerberus that was Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. The issue with Holgo is defense, but with a solid defensive coordinator and better recruits on that side of the field, the Buffs would be fine. (Just, you know, find someone better than D.J. Eliot.)
It’s worth noting here that Holgorsen has always worked with Joe Wickline, one of the best offensive line coaches in college. It’s imperative that if CU did hire Holgo, they would need Wickline too.
If there’s one major challenge at West Virginia, it’s that recruiting to Morgantown is exceedingly difficult. The Mountaineers can’t recruit in Texas against Oklahoma and Texas, nor can they compete for croots in Florida or Georgia against the powers of the ACC and SEC. Instead, Holgorsen has had to build his teams with diamonds in the rough, underrated three- and four-stars, and Power 5 cast-offs. The elite offenses he’s built haven’t been with blue chips. At Colorado, he would be closer to California and Texas, and he could use their preexisting pipelines to bring in the talent he’s always craved.
Player Development (3)
With the players Holgorsen has recruited, his developmental track record is superb. As a QB coach, he’s worked with Case Keenum, Brandon Weeden and Geno Smith. All were megastars in college and ass in the NFL, so either he helped them overachieve or they were just system QBs. (Heisman contender Will Grier, by the way, was a former blue chip who flamed out at Florida. He’s projected to be drafted in the 3rd or 4th round, so that probably won’t flip the system-QB narrative.)
Elsewhere on the offense, Holgorsen has coached Justin Blackmon (WR), Tavon Austin (WR), Stedman Bailey (WR), Bruce Irvin (LB) Wendell Smallwood (RB), Kevin White (WR), Karl Joseph (S), Rasul Douglas (CB) and Kyzir White (LB). This year’s team also has David Sills (WR), Yodny Cajuste (OT) and David Long (OLB). Besides the NFL guys — who were almost all busts; credit to Holgo for making them look good, lol — West Virginia always has great offensive depth and good offensive lines to supplement the stars.
Holgorsen is about the opposite of Mike MacIntyre in terms of personality, which can be good or bad depending on your opinion. Mac built a reputation as being polite and funny with the media, and he comes off as passive with his players. Holgo, on the hand, is a wily man who will chug a Red Bull on the sideline. If MacIntyre embodies Southern hospitality, Holgorsen embodies Monster Jam season tickets.
Holgorsen’s buyout at WV is somewhere around $1-$3 million. His salary is around $3-$4 million. For comparison, MacIntyre was making around $3 million. Colorado should be able to afford him, and perhaps even give him a raise.
Interest in Colorado (3)
If there’s any main reason Holgorsen would leave Colorado, it’s because of CU’s closer proximity to recruiting. West Virginia is also about to graduate a ton of talent, so Holgo might want to get a new contract (with CU, WV or somewhere else) before enduring a rebuilding year. If he has interest in Colorado, it might be as a way to leverage himself into an extension.
Cumulative GPA: 3.29*
*If you think this is low, just wait for Mark Helfrich, lol