WVU football: Rigg’s injury forces shuffling on defense
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There is this notion that coaching is a complicated profession and even the smallest decisions require deep thought.
And then there is the revelation from West Virginia's defensive coordinator, Jeff Casteel, about how he adjusted his lineup last week for the 55-10 win against Bowling Green.
Starting linebacker Doug Rigg broke his wrist against LSU and needed surgery that will keep Rigg out a couple of weeks. His absence was to begin with the game against the Falcons and Casteel was going to have to make some changes to replace Rigg, the sophomore from Bergen Catholic in New Jersey who made 14 tackles in the first four games.
Rather than bump Rigg's backup to the starting spot, Casteel instead moved senior middle linebacker Najee Goode to the strong side and elevated Goode's backup, redshirt freshman Jewone Snow, to the starting spot in the middle.
Complex? Not hardly.
"To be honest with you, I think Najee played really well for us there last year - that's where he was," Casteel said. "I thought the next best thing for us was to put Jewone in the middle and move Najee over."
To address the present and the foreseeable future, Casteel went to the past. Goode started all 13 games on the strong side in 2010. He finished with 47 tackles, three sacks and 8 1/2 tackles for a loss.
"Regardless of where he plays," Coach Dana Holgorsen said, "he's going to be productive."
Holgorsen and Casteel knew what to expect from Goode. Casteel eliminated one unknown before putting his trust in another.
Snow played a little first-team middle linebacker in preseason camp when Goode missed time, but so, too, did Rigg. Snow didn't play against Marshall or Maryland and didn't have a statistic to his name in his career before making two tackles on Bowling Green's second possession.
The defensive staff nevertheless liked its chances with Snow alongside Goode.
"He's going to be a good football player," Casteel said of snow, of Canton, Ohio. "He's young, but we thought it was good to give him an opportunity to play."
Holgorsen said this week's practices will determine who plays where when the 16th-ranked Mountaineers (4-1) play host to Connecticut (2-3) in a Big East opener for both teams at noon Saturday at Mountaineer Field.
A change seems unlikely, though, because Snow impressed ... and everyone trusts Goode.
"If we could clone three of him, we'd like to have him at each of the three linebacker spots," Holgorsen said. "He's a good player, he's a team leader and he understands what Jeff wants him to do on defense."
Goode can also help Snow, who, in his most extensive playing time, actually led the team with nine tackles. He credited Goode for slowing him down during the game.
"The first half I was just getting into the flow of things," he said. "The second half I felt a lot more comfortable and played a lot faster. It was a great experience for me."
Mostly, Snow was solid and the linebackers were reliable when Casteel was looking for just that from the group he coaches.
A week earlier he started Josh Francis at the weak side spot against LSU. Last week, Casteel allowed Casey Vance to return to the starting spot he held the first three games before sitting out all of the LSU game.
Goode was the team's leading tackler after four games, but the next five on the list were cornerbacks and safeties - though opponents have had to pass while trailing against WVU and safeties Terence Garvin and Darwin Cook have been present and active near the line of scrimmage a lot this season.
Still, the linebackers had no sacks in four games and two of the 6 1/2 tackles for a loss belonged to Rigg's backup, sophomore Tyler Anderson. No interceptions, no forced or fumbles recoveries, no quarterback hurries.
There were no linebacker sacks, interceptions, forced or recovered fumbles or hurries against Bowling Green, but there was no significant slip with Snow in the middle and true freshman Jared Barber filling in from time to time. Snow split one tackle for a loss with defensive tackle Julian Miller. Barber had one tackle for a loss on his own.
Goode said he felt out of place briefly, but settled in and rediscovered the liberties he had on the strong side. He returned to doing things his experience permitted, things Rigg had not yet learned or been allowed to do, but said he was also a little jealous of Snow.
"He had more tackles than me, so I told him I might have to move him out of the way next week," Goode said. "But I had a little more freedom to do what I want. I actually blitzed a little more and moved around a little more."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.