Change Continues For Defensive Staff, Schemes

Mountaineeer football defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel has the job of assimilating two new coaches into his staff while he continues to tweak the odd stack defense that he implemented last year.

"It's held us back a little bit a little bit this spring," Casteel said as he spoke of the challenges in replacing half of the defensive staff. "The guys that are coming in, Bruce Tall and Bill Kirelawich, have been coaches for a long time, though. Kirlav was here for twenty-some years, and Coach Tall has been a coordinator and has a great deal of experience too."

Casteel will rely on that experience to help the new staff come together quickly, and he believes that goal can be achieved. He speaks highly of both Kirelawich and Tall, and says that they are bringing new ideas and viewpoints that should help the defense improve. Still, they will have to get comfortable with the overall scheme.

"The fundamentals and individual things they are going to be teaching are pretty much the same, they just have to fit it into the scheme of the 3-3 stack," Castell said. "We're in the process of working on that and helping them understand the differences in the things that we're doing in our scheme."

Casteel notes that the entire defensive staff went through what Kirelawich and Tall are experiencing now in preparation for spring practice. The Mountaineer defensive staff visited Wake Forest last year to learn the odd stack, and were still working on much of the base defense as they prepared for spring drills. This year, Casteel and defensive backs coach Tony Gibson have a year of experience under their belts, so they hope to be able to help Kirelawich and Tall get into the swing of things quickly.

Concern has been raised in some quarters about the fact that Tall, who was originally hired to coach West Virginia's defensive line, has not coached defensive backs during his career. Tall was moved to coach the spurs and bandits when Kirelawich was hired and slotted in the defensive line spot, but Casteel doesn't think that will be a problem.

"Bruce has been a defensive line coach, a linebacker coach and a coordinator. When you've had the opportunity to coordinate you've been involved in both the front end and the back end of the defense, so you understand how the overall scheme fits together.

"Although you may not have coached one position specifically, you still understand the reads and the keys that each position has to make and what needs to be done. So, it's not really an issue to jump from one coaching spot to another. It's just a matter of getting in and working with hands-on drills with the players."

The learning doesn't stop with just the newcomers, however. After getting the base defense installed and running last year, Casteel is working on a number of changes to help improve several areas of the defense, including the pass rush.

"We learn about it as we go, and we learn a little bit more about it each day," Casteel said of the 3-3 stack. "We look at the way we were attacked, especially in the latter part of the season. As the year wore on, teams started to develop a certain way of attacking us, so we have to respond to that."

Those changes can come from a variety of sources. In addition to ideas from the new staff, Casteel and other coaches also continue to talk with other programs that are using the scheme.

"We talk to Wake Forest, Air Force and other people that run the defense to find out how they were attacked and what they are doing to counter it," Casteel said of the learning curve. "It's really an ongoing process.

"We know we need to help ourselves against the play action, and against two tight end sets. Those are things we're going to concentrate on in spring practice, as well as look to solidify our two deep."

Spring drills begin on Friday, March 28, and culminate with the Gold Blue game on Saturday, April 26th at 12:30 p.m.

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