Chip Shots – The Defense

The Defense

by Jim Buzzerd

Well, the West Virginia University basketball regular season has ended with the Mountaineers stumbling to a 12-19 record. Actually, stumbling to the finish may not be the most apt way to portray how this team finished. After the dismissal of senior Esa Ahmad and junior Wesley Harris and season ending injuries of Sagaba Konate and Beetle Bolden, West Virginia started first year players Jermaine Haley, Jordan McCabe, Derek Culver and Emmitt Matthews with holdover junior Lamont West for the final five games.

This youthful lineup produced home wins over TCU and Iowa State and had competitive losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State on the road. They did have a bad game at Oklahoma, but many observers agree that the product on the court over the last five games was superior to what coach Bob Huggins had been putting on the court for most of the campaign which is reason of optimism moving forward, especially with five star recruit Oscar Tshiebwe joining the team for next season.

Even so, there is no way to avoid the fact that the Mountaineers loss to OSU Saturday sends them into Wednesday’s first round game in the Big 12 Tournament against Oklahoma as the last place team. Perhaps the Mountaineers can make some noise in the tournament, who knows? Also unavoidable is that this 12-19 team, barring a Big 12 Tournament title and subsequent NCAA championship, will lose 20 games for the first time since the 2001-02 season when WVU was 8-20. That was the season coach Gale Catlett retired mid season.

Now, on to some football news. Last week we capsuled the offensive coaching staff. This week we’ll finish up with the defensive staff. First though, there was a press conference last week and head coach Neal Brown addressed the upcoming spring practice, which will commence on March 19. Drills will conclude April 13 with the Gold-Blue Game at 1 p.m. Possibly the biggest news coming from the press conference was that the media will be allowed access to nine of the 15 spring practice sessions. That is a stark contrast to former coach Dana Holgorsen’s policy of strictly limiting access to practice sessions.

Leading the defense this year will be defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. Koenning came with Brown to West Virginia after serving as his defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Troy from 2015-18. From 2016-18, Troy’s defense allowed 20.8 points per game, ranking No. 4 nationally among non-power 5 schools. In the last four years, the Trojans are No. 2 nationally among FBS schools in takeaways (106). Prior to his most recent stay at Troy, Koenning spent time at North Carolina (DC/2012-14), Illinois (DC/2010-11), Kansas State (Co-DC/2009), Clemson (DC/2005-08), Troy (DC/2003-04), Wyoming (Head Coach/2000-02, DC/1997-99) and Memphis (DB/1991-96, GA/1986-90).

Former Mountaineer and fan favorite Jahmile Addae is returning to coach the secondary. Addae comes back to Morgantown after serving as the defensive backs coach and assisting with several special teams’ phases at Minnesota in 2018. His punt return unit finished No. 1 in the nation (22.3), punt return defense was No. 2 (1.11) and the kickoff return unit finished No. 26 nationally (23.4). Prior to Minnesota, Addae spent five years at Arizona, coaching the defensive backs in 2016-17 and serving as an analyst from 2013-15. Addae was recognized as a top recruiter in the Big East while he was an assistant at Cincinnati.

Jordan Lesley joined the Mountaineer coaching staff as the defensive line coach in January 2019. Lesley came with Brown and defensive coordinator Vic Koenning after serving as an assistant coach at Troy for the last three years, the first two years as the defensive tackles coach and the 2018 season as the defensive line coach.

Al Pogue joined the Mountaineer coaching staff as the outside linebackers coach in January 2019. Pogue (pronounced ‘poag’) came with Brown and defensive coordinator Vic Koenning after serving as the cornerbacks coach at Troy. He served as the cornerbacks coach with Brown and Koenning from 2015-18 and was at Troy from 2014-18. Pogue has already made positive impressions on several 2020 recruits.

Blake Seiler joined the Mountaineer coaching staff as the inside linebackers coach in January 2019. Seiler came to West Virginia after serving on the defensive staff at Kansas State for the last 10 years, including spending time as the assistant defensive coordinator in 2017 and as the defensive coordinator in 2018. Seiler coached the Wildcat linebackers in 2017-18, and worked with the defensive ends from 2013-16. Prior to that, he spent two years as the defensive graduate assistant coach and two years as a quality control coach.

In his first year as the coordinator, his defensive unit ranked No. 3 in the Big 12 in scoring defense (25.4 points per game) and No. 4 in total defense (403.4 yards per game). Two of the Wildcats’ top three tacklers in 2018 were linebackers, as Da’Quan Patton led the team with 70 stops and Justin Hughes – who didn’t start playing on a full-time basis until the fifth game of the season – finished third with 56.