Last night I reached out to the guys at the excellent SB Nation site The Smoking Musket to get their thoughts on the Shannon Dawson move to Kentucky. John Radcliff was kind enough to provide some thoughtful answers to my questions. Here ya go:
There's some talk on social media that Shannon Dawson is a "meh" hire. That sentiment seems to largely stem from the idea that he didn't really call the plays and instead that was Dana Holgorsen's purview. Is this assessment accurate in your mind?
I think there is a certain amount of "how good is this guy?" associated with Dawson. Holgorsen has always cast a huge shadow over the offense since coming to WVU and in his previous stints as an offensive coordinator. I think the assessment is accurate in that there really isn't a lot for Dawson to hang his hat on that doesn't also get attributed to Holgorsen. However, it's hard to imagine Holgorsen would keep him around for so long and promote him to OC if he was dead weight.
What are your general thoughts and feelings towards Dawson, and does that match the wider WVU fan base? Can you provide a basic philosophical breakdown of WVU's offensive tendencies and style?
Because of everything I said above, it's hard to have real solid feelings about Dawson. He's lived in that shadow and has had a hard time making a name for himself because of it. Offensive tendencies have changed with the personnel under Holgorsen. When he got here, he didn't really have the pieces to execute the running game he wanted to. But he did have an exceptional quarterback and two exceptional receivers in Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, and Stedman Bailey. So he went with what he had. This year we've seen that if teams are going to use safety help over the top to prevent big passing plays that the WVU offense was happy to run all day long. The running game isn't nearly as explosive as the passing game, but it's certainly been effective. So, the philosophy has been pick your poison.
What kind of recruiter was Dawson at WVU?
As far as recruiting, Dawson's name doesn't come up a lot. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though. He's on a staff of recruiters at WVU that is probably as good as we've had. Given his roots in the south, I wouldn't be surprised for him to have some success recruiting in the SEC, though.
Dawson coached receivers and quarterbacks at WVU. At UK he'll most likely be assigned the quarterbacks. How would you describe the job he did as a position coach?
He started out with the receivers at WVU and got them in line pretty quickly with what WVU wanted to do. Again, it would be hard to screw up Austin and Bailey. So at least he didn't do anything to screw that up and probably did some to mold them into the receivers they were before leaving Morgantown. As far as being a quarterbacks coach, he had nothing to work with in 2013.
For me, the real proof of his work showed up when Clint Trickett went down in the Kansas State game and Skylar Howard came in and lit a match to the Wildcat defense. Because the Skylar Howard we saw in the spring game this year looked like someone that would never see the field. It was a pretty encouraging transformation. And there is no comparison between Clint Trickett 2013 and the 2014 version. Like I said, the quarterback position in 2013 was a huge liability. But in 2014 we found it to be one with some depth that we could count on.
I can't tell you that he is a sure fire win. But he's been around long enough to have picked up the offense. It remains to be seen if he will be as committed to running the ball as Holgorsen is. That might depend more on the head coach than him, though.