MORGANTOWN – With a series of moves and the stroke of a few pens, Dana Holgorsen has managed to both stabilize his coaching staff and create a bit of a quandary.
The West Virginia coach, who just completed his fourth season, and the school have signed four current assistant coaches to extensions and added a fifth. Bruce Tall, a WVU assistant under Rich Rodriguez, is set to return to the staff and become the defensive line coach.
The school had not announced Tall’s hiring Tuesday, but multiple sources confirmed it.
The trouble is, that makes six assistant coaches on the defensive side of the ball and just three on the offensive side. Since NCAA rules permit only nine full-time assistant coaches, all the slots are filled.
It also leaves WVU with three defensive line coaches. Last season, Tom Bradley coached the interior line and Damon Cogdell the ends. According to sources, Tall is being hired specifically as the defensive line coach and won’t be moved elsewhere.
What that means is that either Bradley or Cogdell or both will have to be moved. But with all of the defensive and special-teams coaching spots filled, that could be problematic.
Both Bradley and Cogdell just completed their first seasons on the WVU staff and both are working under two-year contracts. If the school were to dump either without cause, it would eat Bradley’s $400,000 salary for next season (his contract called for $600,000 last year and then reduced this season) or Cogdell’s $200,000 paycheck.
It would seem that at least one of those two will have to go. In addition to the glut of defensive assistants, Holgorsen still needs to hire another offensive coach to replace Shannon Dawson. In what direction he goes with that remains unclear – he needs a quarterbacks coach and an offensive coordinator, but staff shuffling could change assignments on that side of the ball if he decided to hire someone to coach running backs or receivers.
What seems fairly certain is that a core of assistant coaches is safe, and that includes safeties coach and special-teams coordinator Joe DeForest. A popular target of fan wrath, DeForest has signed a new one-year contract, according to sources within the program. He was known to have been negotiating a new deal because his $500,000-per-year pact is about to expire.
It is believed that his new contract is for less money. DeForest got that large salary because he was initially hired and given a three-year contract as the defensive coordinator in 2012 before being relieved of those duties and reassigned as special-teams coordinator in 2013. This past year he had safeties added to his responsibilities. His salary never changed. That contract was to expire at the end of this month.
While DeForest signed a one-year contract, three other assistants have inked two-year deals – offensive assistants JaJuan Seider and Lonnie Galloway and cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell. All are thought to have received raises, Galloway from his former $300,000 contract, Mitchell from $225,000 and Seider from $200,000. All three of those contracts were set to expire at the end of the month.
It is unclear the contract status of offensive line coach Ron Crook, whose deal also expires at the end of this month, although there has been little indication that he would not be back.
Assuming Crook’s return, that still leaves the offense with just three assistants in Galloway, Seider and Crook. Holgorsen, of course, could be considered a fourth since he is still the offensive architect and play-caller.
On defense, though, there is an overload and everyone has a new contract except Bradley and Cogdell. In addition to DeForest, Mitchell and new hire Tall, coordinator Tony Gibson just signed a three-year contract worth $2.1 million. Last season he served as the linebackers coach in addition to being the coordinator.
Tall returns after having served last season as the defensive coordinator at recent football start-up Charlotte. He was the safeties coach at West Virginia from 2003 to 2007 and then followed Rodriguez to Michigan.
This article was republished with permission from the original author, Dave Hickman. He works for the Charleston Gazette in West Virginia.