WVU defense could be much better in 2013
Published: Friday, January 25, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013 02:01
Last season, the West Virginia football team’s defense was historically bad, plain and simple. The Mountaineers allowed a school record 495 points – more than 38 points a game – while stumbling to a 7-6 record, its worst overall finish in more than a decade.
To put it in perspective, its previous high was 364 points allowed in the 1978 season, where West Virginia finished a woeful 2-9 under Frank Cignetti.
But 2013 could be a different story for the much maligned defense unit of the Mountaineers.
We’ll start at the top, as West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen and WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck have already mixed up the coaching staff on the defensive side of the ball, while adding a few new faces, including one Mountaineer fans should already be somewhat familiar with.
First of all, Joe DeForest, WVU’s defensive coordinator in 2012, was relieved of his DC duties, and replaced by linebackers coach Keith Patterson. This change actually happened in the weeks leading up to the Pinstripe Bowl, which makes me believe that the defense – or lack thereof – that West Virginia fans saw get run over by Syracuse in the Bronx was probably still closer to the philosophies and overall schemes of DeForest rather than Patterson. Installing a new defense in just a matter of weeks before a game would have simply been too overwhelming in such a short stretch of time.
DeForest will maintain his position as assistant head coach with the team.
Even more notable changes within the coaching staff come at the back end of the defense, as WVU hired East Carolina’s Brian Mitchell to coach its cornerbacks, and Arizona’s Tony Gibson to coach its safeties.
Gibson served as Arizona’s assistant head coach, safeties coach and defensive special teams coordinator under Rich Rodriguez last season. Gibson also has a history with the Mountaineers. He was the defensive backs’ coach in 2001-07 and also served as a recruiting coordinator in his time in Morgantown.
Mitchell, meanwhile, has served as ECU’s defensive coordinator and its secondary coach for the last three seasons. He has also coached nine defensive backs that eventually made their way into the NFL.
In addition to the upgrades to its coaching staff, it is also looking like West Virginia may get some much needed freshman reinforcements on the defensive side of the ball next year.
Now, national signing day is still a little over a week away, but according to ESPN and other recruiting reports, the Mountaineers are currently in position to acquire a host of talented defensive prospects for 2013, especially at the linebacker and defensive end positions.
In fact, both of the defensive ends out of Miami that WVU are reportedly courting are listed in ESPN’s top 300 prospects in the entire nation.
First is Paul James III, who is listed as the No. 204 prospect in the country. Unfortunately, he hasn’t officially committed or set a formal decision date, but according to ESPN Insider, James III prefers to play outside of his home state of Florida and has shown more interest in WVU than any other school up to this point.
Next is Stacy Thomas, another Miami native, listed as No. 222 in the ESPN 300 and as the No. 17 defensive end prospect in the class of 2013. Thomas, like James, hasn’t issued a formal commitment yet, but he will be formally visiting Morgantown today, and it’s the only recruiting visit the prospect currently has scheduled, despite receiving offers from Florida, FSU, Notre Dame and LSU.
In addition to the two talented defensive end prospects that should eventually sign with the West Virginia, the Mountaineers also already have concrete commitments from four 4-star linebacker prospects.
Darrien Howard, from Dayton, Ohio, is the 9th ranked linebacker in the entire class of 2013, and committed to WVU in June.
The Mountaineers also have commitments from Al-Rasheed Benton, Sam Lebbie and Hodari Christian, the No. 16, No. 33 and No. 35 ranked players at the linebacker position in the 2013 class according to ESPN’s rankings.
I think that with the talent of these recruits coupled with the shake-ups in the coaching staff will ultimately yield positive results for the Mountaineers’ defense in 2013.
Add in the fact that WVU’s returning defensive starters will be a year more experienced, and hopefully, playing with more of an edge after their mostly pedestrian production last year, and I think that the Mountaineer’s defense could actually transform from a liability to a solid foundational piece in 2013.