With the return of former WVU defensive coordinator Steve Dunlap, who had great first-half success against the Mountaineers as Marshall's coordinator last season, new head coach Bill Stewart is sure to pick the brain as to any offensive tells or unknown weaknesses. Dunlap's Thundering Herd unit held West Virginia to just 118 yards and six points in the first half to lead by a touchdown at the break. Six of the initial seven West Virginia possessions ended in punts, with just 118 yards on 23 plays, an average of five per snap. But without a 46-yard scoring toss from Pat White to Darius Reynaud, those totals would have been 22 plays, 72 yards, 3.3 yards per play.
"Oh, yeah," Dunlap said when asked about his cross-examination. "You do that everyday. That's learning. I am sure they will ask about things."
The Mountaineers did, however, score touchdowns on six of seven second-half series to finish the game with 511 yards of offense including 362 on the ground. Much of that came in the fourth quarter, when superior depth and conditioning began to wear on Marshall's line play. WVU had 24 first downs and 42 second-half points. It was the most points in a half since 2001 when West Virginia scored 59 in the first half against Rutgers.
"I have to learn what Jeff (Casteel) does first," Dunlap said of WVU's 3-3-5 odd stack set that will feature increased four-man fronts this year. "I am here to find what they do. We just were short of players, that's the main reason (for all the defensive line signees). I am not here to change anything, but learn to run what they do. Along with (new cornerbacks coach) Dave Lockwood, we don't want to change anything with the success they had last year. We lost all the safeties, two linemen, all the corners. We have a lot of work to do."
Dunlap, named the assistant head coach in charge of safeties, often ran some 4-3 looks as defensive coordiantor under former WVU head coach Don Nehlen. At times, that was a true four-man front. But often, Dunlap's 4-3 served as more of a 3-4 set in positions, only to have a rush linebacker like Canute Curtis and Gary Stills who could pressure the passer or drop into coverage. The adjustment, then, likely will not be difficult for either Dunlap or Casteel. Both use what would be termed hybrid players, and with Dunlap being in charge of that group, it would appear the duo's experience, along with that Lockwood, would be invaluable. All three have served as defensive coordinators, making the Mountaineers one of just a few schools that can claim that extensive training.
Dunlap spent 17 years as an assistant, including 10 as the defensive coordinator (1991-2000). During that period he worked specifically with the inside linebackers (1984-86, 1993-2000), and defensive backs (1987-92). He then had stints at Syracuse, North Carolina State and Marshall, as a defensive coordinator for at least one season. During his NC State tenure, the 2005 Wolfpack ranked eighth nationally in total defense (298.6 yards per game). Dunlap also served as linebackers coach at Syracuse from 2001 to 2004, assistant head coach from 2002-03 and defensive coordinator in 2004. Dunlap was honored for his coaching ability in 1997, when he was named a finalist for the inaugural Frank Broyles Award, awarded annually to the nation's top assistant coach.
He was never fired, but ran into a string of bad luck when Paul Pasqualoni and Chuck Amato, the head coaches for Syracuse and NC State, respectively, were dismissed from the programs, which then implemented nearly all new staffs and schemes. Dunlap said he will be forever grateful for his hiring at Marshall by Herd head coach Mark Snyder, one of the main reasons he hesitated in leaving that program. The lure of West Virginia was simply too strong in the end, however.
As a Mountaineer player, Dunlap was an inside linebacker for current Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden. He was a member of the 1975 WVU squad that defeated NC State 13-10 in the Peach Bowl. Dunlap, among the most prolific defenders in school history, set WVU records for total tackles (190) in a season and tackles in a game (28 vs. Boston College). He also ranks 10th all-time in career tackles with 359.
"Steve possesses a brilliant defensive mind and brings a tremendous amount of experience," Stewart said. "He has a vast knowledge of the game, is a great game strategist and has been successful during his tenure. We are very fortunate to have such an outstanding coach join our staff."