Numerous names have been floated as potential candidates for the openings on West Virginia's football coaching roster, and many of those will likely be either considered, contacted to gauge interest, or interviewed. However, before head coach Bill Stewart gets down to his final decision, he will have to consider a number of other factors before making offers and putting together his staff.
Of course, the ideal situation would be to find seven coaches that are great recruiters, tireless workers, possess dynamic personalities and have top drawer X and O skills. Just as obviously, such coaches are few and far between, so mixing and matching those items to achieve the desired balance becomes the order of the day. But which ones are more important -- and more to the point, which ones are needed the most at this time? Here's my estimation.
First, West Virginia must get an offensive coordinator that can hit the ground running. That's not a knock against Stewart, who has performed masterfully in the last two bowl games (Mississippi and Oklahoma) in which he was an integral part of the offensive game plan. However, as head coach, he's not likely to be the micromanager that Rich Rodriguez was, and thus will need a coordinator that knows the spread intimately. If that's the case, former WVU player and coach Bill Legg, now the offensive coordinator at Purdue, would be an obvious candidate, but others, such as Herb Hand (now at Tulsa) would also certinaly merit attention. Whoever the selection, their success in continuing WVU's running of the spread is critical.
Second, the Mountaineers will need to find at least three strong recruiters -- hopefully ones that have ties to areas West Virginia already recruits in. Florida and Pennsylvania are obvious needs, as Calvin Magee, Rod Smith, Greg Frey and Tony Gibson have all departed. However, one area that hasn't gotten as much publicity is Stewart's hunting grounds of Virginia and the Washington, D.C. area. Stewart was an outstanding recruiter who snared many stars from that area, but now that he is an assistant coach, he can't serve as a primary recruiter. Finding a replacement for him in that area will be just as important as filling out the other gaps in recruiting coverage.
Of course, there's nothing that mandates West Virginia recruit in those areas. If the assistants hired have good records in other areas that are reasonably close to WVU's footprint, then that would be acceptable. However, WVU can't hope to build its recruiting base in Kentucky, or Tennessee, or New York. It has to get coaches, again, a minimum of three, that either have ties in WVU's existing areas or can adapt quickly to them. All of those regions don't necessarily have to be covered, but it owuld make life easier if that were the case.
Third on the list of importance comes an offensive line coach. The backbone of the spread running game, West Virginia must identify someone who can coach the zone blocking scheme, but also instill the toughness necessary to fire out and convert short yardage situations. That was a missing element in 2007 -- one that must be rectified in 2008.
Finally, the Mountaineers must find a coach that can coax some production from its wide receivers, which have ranged from good to woeful over the past several years. Whether it's a problem with identifying, procuring or developing talent, West Virginia hasn't had more than one dependable, big play receiver at a time in its offense since Don Nehlen roamed the sidelines. Stewart knows the value of being able to attack downfield, but it can't be done consistently without the players do do so. Finding not only a recruiter to get the players, but a coach to develop them, is vital in this regard. And if both those qualities were embodied in one person, so much the better.
This is not to demean the importance of other coaching positions, or to say they are less important to West Virginia's overall success. However, to keep the train rolling in 2008 and beyond, Stewart will need to find, and land, coaches that can successfully fill these roles.