Replacing 2010 defense will keep Casteel busy in spring
Mountaineers lost seven starters from last year’s top-10 squad
Published: Thursday, March 3, 2011
Updated: Thursday, March 3, 2011 22:03
With the ups and downs of the offseason behind him, West Virginia football coach Bill Stewart is ready to start a new chapter of Mountaineer football.
In this, Stewart's final year as head coach, WVU will begin the installation of a new offense lead by offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen and his offensive coaching staff.
On the other side of the ball, the defense might not be making as many drastic changes but will have to fill voids left by players leaving due to graduation or early exits.
Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and his staff have their work cut out for them as they try to replace seven starters from the nation's third-best defense.
"This is going to be a big spring season for us," Casteel said. "When you look at who we lost and where we lost them, it is basically spread out all over the defense."
One of the first areas of concern for Casteel will be addressing the defensive line, which saw the loss of nose tackle Chris Neild and defensive end Scooter Berry.
Neild helped anchor the Mountaineers No. 2-ranked rushing defense, which gave up a stingy 86.5 yards per game.
"We have got to find some answers inside to replace Chris Neild," Casteel said. "Jorge Wright and Josh Taylor are guys that have played some football there, and they are going to have to step up and make some plays."
The job of replacing Berry may not be as hard, but it still presents its challenges.
Casteel and his staff will attempt to groom pass rushing specialist Bruce Irvin into an every down type of player.
"We are getting Bruce Irvin back, and he is everyone's hero," Casteel said. "He is my hero, too."
Irvin collected 14 sacks last season, and Casteel hopes a full year of football under the defensive end's belt will be the key to him building on his success in 2010.
Irvin didn't join the team until preseason camp, so this will be his first spring and summer workouts with the team.
"He just has a lot to learn, because he hasn't play a great deal of football," Casteel said. "He is obviously a big, strong, physical kid with a great attitude that will only get better."
Besides replacing last year's leaders, Casteel will also have to deal with a different wrinkle due to the high-paced offense.
If Holgorsen's offense works to perfection like it has at Oklahoma State and Houston in the past, scoring drives could force the defense back onto the field quicker, which will mean less time to rest between possessions for Casteel's group.
"The key for us, whether it is a fast-paced offense or ball-control offense, is being successful on third down," Casteel said. "No matter how fast they are scoring offensively, if we play good third-down defense, we are going to get off the field."
Despite the big changes from last year's top-tier defense, Casteel is ready to hit the field, much like the rest of the coaching staff.
"We are excited to get out on the field and see what these guys can do," Casteel said.