The last few weeks have been busy for West Virginia University football Coach Dana Holgorsen. It’s the time of year where the coaching staff is putting the finishing touches on the 2013 recruiting class with three weeks to go until signing day. It is also the time of year where coaches start moving around which can often throw a monkey wrench into recruiting. You know, if you have a coach on staff that has a high profile recruit interested in signing at your school, and that coach leaves for some reason, said recruit could also be gone.
Losing coaches can also hinder the continuity of the team. Ideally, the fewer coaching changes from year to year, the better, but in the world of college football it rarely works that way. If a head coach is running a successful program chances are good that he will have assistants on his staff that will be getting offers for better jobs elsewhere. On the flip side, if a coach has some under performing units on his team he may need to consider changes to his staff.
At WVU Holgorsen is currently addressing both scenarios of the coaching carousel. Shortly after the season ended and before the bowl game Holgorsen dismissed cornerbacks Coach Daron Roberts. Roberts had gained some measure of national notoriety when he was hired two years ago, not from his football coaching experience, but because he had two Harvard law degrees.
Roberts’ playing experience was limited to his high school days in Texas, but he brought a lot to the table, especially in recruiting. Moms and dads like that their sons will be associating with such an accomplished individual. Alas, as the 2012 WVU defense became the worst, at least statistically, in history it became clear that changes would be made on the defensive side of the ball and Roberts was the first casualty.
To clarify, Joe DeForest may have technically been first as he may, or may not, have lost his title of defensive coordinator during the season, though he will remain on the staff. There was no official announcement, but DeForest and Keith Patterson swapped positions during the season. DeForest from the field to the press box and Patterson from the press box to the field. It has been made official now that Patterson is the DC and DeForest is the assistant head coach.
Also jettisoned is former WVU player and veteran Coach Steve Dunlap who coordinated the special teams this season. Dunlap wasn’t unemployed very long as he was hired by Doc Holliday at Marshall to coach linebackers. Dunlap was the DC in the late 90s under Don Nehlen and once coached one of the top defenses ever at WVU. Since then he had less success in similar stints at Syracuse and Marshall.
Jake Spavital who was the quarterbacks coach at WVU the last two seasons was offered, and took the same job at Texas A&M. It would be hard to question that decision as Spavital gets to move closer to his hometown of Tulsa and he gets to coach Heisman Trophy winner Johnnie Manziel for two seasons.
Reports have surfaced that replacements have been hired, but an official announcement is pending approval from WVU’s Human Resource department. According to reports, former Rich Rodriguez assistant Tony Gibson will return to WVU and coach safeties. Former Bill Stewart assistant Lonnie Gallaway is said to be leaving Wake Forest and returning to coach wide receivers. The final addition is reported to be Brian Mitchell who had been the defensive coordinator at East Carolina and will likely coach the cornerbacks at West Virginia.
Reactions to the proposed hires among fans has been mixed. Gibson was often criticized here under Rodriguez for the play of his cornerbacks. The tradeoff is that he is a top-flight recruiter. Gallaway too, is a top recruiter. He was responsible for bringing Bruce Irvin and Tavon Austin to Morgantown and fans seem thrilled to have him back.
Mitchell did not fare well as a coordinator at ECU, but the word is he is a solid position coach, so time will tell.