In promoting former safeties coach Tony Gibson to defensive coordinator and adding former Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley to the coaching staff, I think West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen realizes the time for change is now.
Since former defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel bolted to Arizona to follow Rich Rodriguez, the defense has been a nightmare.
However, I think Holgorsen has finally assembled a stable, knowledgeable staff on the defensive side of the football.
Gibson and Bradley have a rich history of recruiting against each other in talent-rich western Pennsylvania, while Gibson was at West Virginia and Bradley at Penn State.
With the two working together, I’m eager to see the results the duo produces, both on the field and the recruiting trail.
In his time as defensive coordinator at Penn State, Bradley coached the Nittany Lions defense to six consecutive top 15 finishes in both total and scoring defense. Bradley also chips in 33 years of coaching experience under Joe Paterno.
“For us to be able to get a guy with that much experience to coach a position, and be able to help and do all the things we need at this point is a great hire for us and a great addition to the Mountaineer family,” Gibson said in an interview with WVUsports.com.
Bradley was originally added to the staff under the title of senior associate head coach but has since been named the defensive line coach. Damon Cogdell, who joined the staff in early January, will coach the linebackers with Gibson, while Brian Mitchell continues to work with the cornerbacks and Joe DeForest takes over as safeties coach.
“We have five good coaches on defense and everyone’s going to play a part in it,” Gibson said. “You’ve got Brian Mitchell, who’s been a coordinator, (and) you’ve got Joe (DeForest), who’s been a coordinator, so those guys all play a big role in what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it.”
Last season, the Mountaineers’ defense was No. 101 in total defense and No. 108 in 2012. However, the unit was tied for No. 19 last season in turnovers gained, with 16 fumble recoveries and 12 interceptions in 12 games played, which is one positive aspect in a cloud of darkness.
Along with an experienced and talented coaching staff, the defense itself returns several key players including junior Isaiah Bruce at spur linebacker, junior Nick Kwiatkoski at will linebacker, senior Jared Barber at sam linebacker and junior Karl Joseph at free safety.
Without a doubt, linebacker has emerged as the deepest and most experienced position for the Mountaineers entering spring.
With a rejuvenated staff ready to start fresh, it’ll be interesting to see the defensive progress being made in the spring game April 12 and the final product Aug. 30 against Alabama.