WVU football: Dunlap takes on new role with Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Steve Dunlap has been through 34 seasons coaching Division I football as a graduate assistant, part-time assistant of full-time assistant and that it was the most recent offseason at West Virginia that prompted this review.
"Strange," he said.
Dana Holgorsen finished his first season as head coach with a 70-33 victory in the Orange Bowl and a few days later lost defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel to the University of Arizona. Casteel took with him defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich and cornerbacks coach David Lockwood.
The general and acceptable assumption was that those three were looking out for their longevity as much as they were looking for an opportunity. Holgorsen had agreed to keep the defensive staff in tact for the 2011 season, but there were no guarantees beyond that.
It left Dunlap, who has spent 25 years on the sideline at his alma mater, where he won three letters and made a lot of tackles as a linebacker from 1976-78, in an uncertain predicament.
If observers had questions about his future, then so, too, did Dunlap. Casteel, Lockwood and Kirelawich were gone and no longer a part of the situation they were forced to go along with when Holgorsen arrives.
No one said anything to Dunlap.
"I was here probably four or five days before I was in Dana's office on, like, a Sunday and we were planning a recruiting trip and he said, 'We need to go here and here and here,'" Dunlap said.
Dunlap stopped things before they went any further and addressed the obvious.
"That means I still have a job?" he asked.
Holgorsen smirked. "Yeah, why do you ask?"
Dunlap was reintroduced Monday as WVU's full-time special team's coordinator, meaning the man who was in charge of WVU's kickoff and punt defense last season and who has had some influence various units since he returned to WVU in 2007, will run the outfit in 2012.
"You've got to have somebody to blame," Dunlap said. "Now you can call me in after the game. 'OK, what happened?' "
What happened to Dunlap is he was maybe never in danger of losing his job. He worked with Holgorsen more last year than did the three coaches who left and Dunlap figures that helped him and Holgorsen get to know one another quicker and better.
"I have a little different relationship with Dana as far as being a defensive coach because I was always involved in special teams," Dunlap said.
"I had to communicate with him a lot more, whether we punt or don't punt, things like that. Our relationship was pretty good."
So Dunlap is in charge now after WVU had a variety of special teams trouble last season. There were stretches of bad punts and field goals and sporadic struggles on the coverage and returns teams, but the Mountaineers were actually in pretty good shape by the end of season.
They blocked a punt against Rutgers, blocked a potential game-tying field goal at the end of the Cincinnati game, used punts to control field position in the second half of the win against Pitt and had a kickoff return touchdown and game-winning, BCS bid-clinching field goal against USF.
Before his second season, Holgorsen has done something neither of the two previous coaches did as the game, the way it's played and coached became more specialized.
"Having a guy that makes sure that he just focuses on it and spends the better part of his day making sure that what we do is good schematically and evaluating talent and all that is something that is going to pay off," Holgorsen said.
Holgorsen also announced safeties coach Joe Deforest will be the defensive coordinator and recruit north Florida. Keith Patterson is the linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator and will recruit Dallas and junior colleges in Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma. Erik Slaughter will coach the defensive line and recruit in central Florida.
Those three were hired to fill the staff vacancies, but Holgorsen also moved outside receivers coach Daron Roberts to cornerbacks, where he has some NFL coaching experience. Roberts will recruit Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Holgorsen named Shannon Dawson offensive coordinator. Dawson also will handle inside and outside receivers and recruit Houston, parts of Louisiana and junior colleges in Mississippi.
Holgorsen, who will maintain an influence over the offense, said offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh will recruit western Ohio and Chicago. Running backs coach Robert Gillespie will recruit south Florida. Quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital will recruit New Jersey.
"One thing Dana did was put five coaches on the offensive side and five coaches on the defensive side and that's never happened in my 30-plus years of coaching," said Dunlap, who will recruit western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. "I never understood that. You'd see guys put five coaches on offense and the head coach - that's six - and then four guys on defense."
Dunlap will do a little coaching with the outside linebackers, particularly the "sam" position in the new 3-4 look.
That position will remain a hybrid linebacker/safety spot similar to Casteel's 3-3-5. Terence Garvin, who is out for spring practice with a knee injury, played that position last year and Patterson and Dunlap said it's almost identical to the new scheme.
The rest of Dunlap's time goes to special teams and he said his new position gives him a greater ability to improve special teams.
"I have more time," he said. "I would come in on a Sunday morning and I've got to come in early because I've got to grade my guys. I've got three safeties. Let's say there's 70 plays. How many grades is that? It's 210.
"We kick off eight times. I've got to grade all 11 of the guys. That's 88 grades. We punted six times. That's 66 more grades. It's time-consuming."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.