After weeks of speculation, West Virginia University defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel accepted an offer from Rich Rodriguez at the University of Arizona to be the defensive coordinator in Tucson. The announcement came last Wednesday, a week after West Virginia’s record setting Orange Bowl win over Clemson.
Also leaving the WVU staff and going to Arizona are long time defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich and secondary coach Dave Lockwood.
It was widely assumed that Rodriguez had offered Casteel the defensive coordinator job shortly after he was hired at Arizona on November 22. What wasn’t clear was the level of interest Casteel had in rejoining the former WVU coach in Arizona. Casteel’s passion for the Mountain State is well known, as is his family’s. The thinking was that Casteel would stay put at WVU.
As time wore on, and Rodriguez had not yet named a defensive coordinator, the speculation grew that Casteel would indeed be leaving WVU in favor of the desert, but Casteel wanted to wait until after the Orange Bowl to make an announcement. During the week leading up to the game fan based websites in Arizona were reporting that the Casteel hire was a “done deal” and the announcement would follow the bowl game.
West Virginia fans pretty much came to that conclusion as well, but several days after the Orange Bowl had passed and Casteel had not made an announcement. Those Arizona websites were scrambling for an explanation, as were similar sites in West Virginia. Was Casteel having second thoughts and consdering staying? By Tuesday word began to come out that Casteel would indeed be leaving and taking Kirelawich and Lockwood with him.
The trio will all be making less money in Tucson which begs the question of why would they leave? The best answer appears that Casteel was the only one of the three that was going to be asked to come back as head coach Dana Holgorsen was planning to start bringing in his own staff.
As much as it pains many WVU fans to see an “old school” coach like Kirelawich, who has been around the program since 1979, sent packing, it is also common for a new coach to assemble his own staff. That did not happen when Holgorsen was hired since his hiring was a bit unconventional in that he was supposed to be a head coach in waiting for a season. Holgorsen was allowed to bring his offensive staff with him, but WVU retained the defensive staff.
As of Monday afternoon there isn’t a lot to report on replacements.
Holgorsen has announced the addition of Joe DeForest to the staff.
DeForest has spent the last 11 seasons as an assistant at Oklahoma State where he met Holgorsen. It is expected that DeForest, known for his recruiting ability, will be the defensive coordinator, or co-coordinator.
Other names have surfaced including Houston’s Brian Stewart and Oklahoma’s Brent Venables. Reports over the weekend and on Monday indicate that Stewart may end up at Maryland and Venables was able to leverage WVU’s interest in him to retain a very lucrative offer to either remain with the Sooners or sign on at Clemson.
One name that was previously considered a long shot resurfaced as a possibility on Monday. That is Randy Shannon, the former Miami Hurricane head coach who is currently unemployed. The only other unknown, or at least unreported, item is the status of Steve Dunlap, the WVU safeties coach. He did not go to Arizona, but his return to the WVU staff next season is presumably in limbo. Then, for all we know, he has been retained. Dunlap, a former WVU player and coach under Don Nehlen is the last remaining coach with a direct tie to WVU. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out, but expect answers sooner rather than later.