Tony Dews is no stranger to West Virginia. Entering his 20th year as a coach, Dews is beginning his third stint with the Mountaineers. He was a graduate assistant from 1999-2001, and also coached WVU's wide receivers in 2007. This third job, however, was unexpected.
"I got a call, I believe it was the day after signing day, that Thursday, that they had a coach leave and wanted to know if I’d be interested in talking to them about the position. I thought about it, talked to a couple folks, talked to [Dana Holgorsen], wanted to at least listen because obviously, because I have some friends through the business and some personal friends who are now here on the staff. I wanted to listen to see what they had to say, see what kind of opportunity it was. I did that, and here we are."
Once on board, Dews decided to begin from scratch, even though he has a backfield with a good bit of experience.
"In my mind, I want them to all feel like they are starting over, like they all have a clean slate. It's all competition at this point. I'm very excited. I have had a chance to watch the games from last year, and I've watched the cut-ups. I've had the chance to see them around a little bit. It's a great looking group of kids. Physically they are all put together.
"This is a group that’s been coached very well in my opinion, by coach (JaJuan) Seider over the last few years. It’s pretty evident with some of the guys he’s had, that they’ve gone on and played in the NFL. I’m fortunate to inherit a group like this, and I’m also excited about the change."
Dews will also be starting over himself in a way, as he will be coaching a position he has never worked with before. He's been just about everywhere else - lines, linebackers, tight ends, wide receivers and special teams, but this is the first time he'll work with the running backs. That's a daunting task, especially when jumping in on a Power Five conference staff, but Dews doesn't view it as an overwhelming one.
"I believe that coaching is teaching, and if you can teach, you can coach. I feel confident in my ability to teach, and again, I’ve been coaching for a little over 20 years now, so I feel like I can adapt," Dews said. "Working at Arizona, one of the things that we did, I stayed in a room with (Arizona Running Backs coach) Calvin Magee, who I feel like, if not the best running back coach in the country, he’s certainly one of them. I’ve spent a lot of time with Calvin, and obviously the success he’s had as a position coach and coordinator, I’ve spent a lot of time with him just talking football in general. Obviously as a coach, part of coaching is going out, and if I don’t know something, seeking someone out that you feel confident in their abilities to coach the position, so I’ve done that, and will continue to do that."
Dews is facing that challenge head on, and views it as a natural progression in his career goals.
"I hadn’t coached [running backs], number one. I have goals someday to be an offensive coordinator and maybe even a head coach, so I thought professionally that this would be another opportunity to coach a different position, present a new challenge to myself."
Dews and his backs will definitely have a get-acquainted period on the field, and that will make upcoming spring practices very important. Whatever form the WVU offense takes this fall, running backs will be a very important component, so the players and their new coach need to forge their working relationships quickly.