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West Virginia Mountaineers Spring Practice Preview: Coaching

Our spring practice preview schedule:

Today we end the Smoking Musket's Spring Practice Preview by taking a look at the coaching staff. The staff features two of the best coordinators in the nation with new offensive coordinator (and head coach-in-waiting), Dana Holgorsen, and defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. Last season, Casteel's defense shut down almost every opponent they faced, but the offense under Jeff Mullen seemed stuck in neutral most of the time. I know the question that went through my head was: 'What if the offense was as good as our defense?' Apparently, WVU AD Oliver Luck had the same thought.

Even before West Virginia lost to N.C. State in the Champs Sports Bowl, the Mountaineer coaching staff was going through an dramatic makeover. Particularly, at the top and on the offensive side of the ball. On Nov. 14th, the day after a victory over Cincinatti, AD Oliver Luck called Bill Stewart into his office and informed Stew of his plans for the future of  Mountaineer football. A month later, Dana Holgorsen was announced as WVU's new offensive coordinator (sending Jeff Mullen on his merry way down to UNCC) and as head coach-in-waiting. Bill Stewart will then move to a position inside the Athletic Department after the 2011 season. 

Jeff Mullen and his entire coaching staff were let go, and Holgorsen was able to hire replacements. He said that it was important to hire the best coaches, not just his buddies. All of the coaches that he hired have either coached with, or played under Holgorsen in the last twenty years.

Stewart and Holgorsen hired Bill Bedenbaugh as the offensive line coach, Shannon Dawson as inside receivers coach, and Lonnie Galloway as outside receivers coach. Around the beginning of March, Galloway left WVU to go to Wake Forest to coach the same position. It was a surprise move, coming a month before the start of Spring Practice. Less than three weeks later, just before Spring Practice began, Bill Stewart announced that Detroit Lions assistant, Daron Roberts, would fill the vacant position. Bedenbaugh and Dawson both have worked with or played under Holgorsen. Roberts' connection to Holgorsen was brief (we'll get to that in a bit), but he must have made a good impression on the future Mountaineer coach.

Bill Bedenbaugh replaces OL coach Dave Johnson. Holgorsen and Bedenbaugh played together at Iowa Wesleyan and went on to coach under Hal Mumme at Valdosta St. and under Mike Leach at Texas Tech. Bedenbaugh comes from a four-year stint at Arizona where he helped the Wildcats finish with the ninth best passing attack last season with an average of 307.7 yards per game. 

Holgorsen recruited Dawson to play quarterback at Wingate in 1999. Dawson has been the offensive coordinator as FCS school, Stephen F. Austin for the past three seasons. Dawson's SFA squads have ranked as one of the best offenses during those years. SFA led the FCS in passing last season while finishing forth in scoring and sixth in overall offense.

Roberts' road to the Mountaineer sideline was the most interesting of the three new assistants. Roberts is a former Harvard Law grad who decided to forgo law and instead sent out 164 letters to college and NFL teams, trying solicit a job. He received one response from then Kansas City head coach, Herm Edwards, who offered Roberts to come and serve as an unpaid training camp intern. He was retained during the regular season as a volunteer and eventually became the Chiefs quality control assistant. He then traveled with Gunther Cunningham after the 2008 season to Detroit. Roberts is the only assistant coach on the Mountaineer coaching staff with NFL experience, although he has never coached on the offensive side of the ball. The tie that Roberts has to Holgorsen was when Roberts took a one-month sabbatical from Harvard to shadow Mike Leach while Holgorsen was at Texas Tech.

Since 2000, Holgorsen has been involved in offenses that ranked either No. 1 in passing, total or scoring offense. 20 times his offenses have ranked in the top 5 in those categories. Since 2002, he has been part of an offense that finished 10th or better all but once in those stats (13th in scoring off. in 2006). 

Holgorsen's new offense was installed in three days to start spring practice. Over the next few weeks, Holgorsen will work to refine the offense. He has plenty of tools in the passing attack. Geno Smith returns as starter for a second season. ESPN's, Bruce Feldman, considers  Smith as the top dark-horse Heisman candidate. Also returning is a potential murderer's row of wide receivers with the electric Tavon Austin leading the way. The starting running back position is up for grabs after the departure of Noel Devine, but Holgorsen has shown an aptitude for producing 1,000 yard rushers at about the same clip as producing Biletnikoff Award winners. The offense should reach unseen heights in the history of Mountaineer football during Holgorsen's regime.  

On the defensive side of the ball, Jeff Casteel's coaching staff remains intact. Casteel's defenses are always solid, usually rank at the top of the Big East, and some seasons rank as one of the best in the country. He has a tall order to fill for this season trying to replace 7 defensive starters after ranking 3rd in the nation in total defense last season. Thus far, Casteel's name has not come up in many coaching searches, but his star is on the rise. He doesn't have an agent or a website and doesn't promote himself. The native of Paden City, WV seems content to stay in his home state (cross your fingers). 

WVU Coaching Staff:

Head Coach- Bill Stewart

Offensive Coordinator- Dana Holgorsen

Defensive Coordinator- Jeff Casteel

Assistant Head Coach (Safeties)- Steve Dunlap

Assistant Coach (Defensive Backs) - David Lockwood

Assistant Coach (Defensive Line)- Bill Kirelawich

Assistant Coach (Offensive Line)- Bill Bedenbaugh

Assistant Coach (Running Backs)- Robert Gillespie

Assistant Coach (Inside Receivers)- Shannon Dawson

Assistant Coach (WRs/ Special Teams)- Daron Roberts