Coaching Communication

What are coaches in the booth looking for on gameday? What are advantages of coaching from the field? West Virginia's coaches explain.

Do you ever look down on the field during gameday and see a WVU player talking on the phone and wonder just who in the heck they could be talking to at such a crucial juncture? By the same token, do you ever look up in the press box and wonder just what exactly it is West Virginia's coaches are looking for from such a high angle?

On gamedays for West Virginia, the coaching staff is split into two groups: those who remain on the field, and those who make up the proverbial eye in the sky. On the field for the defense is coordinator Jeff Casteel and cornerbacks coach David Lockwood. Running backs coach Chris Beatty, outside receivers mentor Lonnie Galloway and offensive line coach Dave Johnson man the sidelines for the offense.

In the box for the defense is safeties coach Steve Dunlap and line coach Bill Kirelawich. Offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen and tight ends/fullbacks coach Doc Holliday round out the staff members in the booth.

So, how does it all come together? For this story, we'll focus solely on the defensive side of the ball.

"We go up with the gameplan, but everything is predicated on what particular personnel they have in the game," said Dunlap. "For instance, if they put two backs and two tight ends in the game then we probably won't run our dime team out there. If they put big people into the game in a goal line situation, we'll put our big guys in too. It's a simplistic way of saying that, but that's what we're doing."

Dunlap, a collegiate coaching veteran of more than 30 years, has certainly spent his fair share of time in the box as well as on the sidelines, but seems to prefer the life upstairs.

"It's great in the box. Nobody can throw things and hit you with them," quipped the quick-witted Dunlap. "It's a lot safer. It doesn't get cold up there either. I've got these glasses that I can see the future with, too."

Obviously there are advantages and disadvantages to both. In the box, you can view the entire field. All 22 players are visible, and the formations and personnel groupings are easy to see from the safe distance. So, too, is the down and distance and placement of the ball.

On any staff, the coaches in the box have specific responsibilities throughout the game. Dunlap explains West Virginia's.

"(Defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich) primarily watches the front and the front six," Dunlap explained. "I'm responsible for watching the perimeter, the passing game and the receiver. I try to get their routes. I get help, too. (Defensive backs coach David) Lockwood is down on the field and he'll watch the near receivers (closest to West Virginia's sideline). I'll watch the far receivers, just to see what they do. Are they running a flat route? A smash route?

"Then at halftime when I come down (to the locker room), I'll have all the routes with me just to show the kids what (the opponent) is doing," he continued. "From that, we'll make adjustments and tweak our coverages to what they are doing."

Coaches in the box are escorted to and from their post by stadium security prior to the game, to and from halftime, and late in the game. In the case of a blowout, they may skip out a little bit earlier. Elevators inside the entrance to the press box are designated for "lockdown" to ensure that the coaches have the quickest possible route from the field to the booth and vice versa.

Casteel spent a couple of years in the box, but for the most part, his eight years in Morgantown have been spent on the sideline. Though the view isn't as good from the sideline, there are other factors that come into play on the field that cannot be duplicated upstairs.

"The thing down on the field is getting a feel for the kids and what they're seeing," Casteel noted. "Basically, you have a feel for the game that you get right down there on the field. You get a chance to talk to the kids, a chance to see what they're doing and thinking and a chance to adjust with them right there instead of having to talk to them over the phone, or having somebody else do it."

On gameday, it all works together in concert. Directing the symphony, so to speak, is Casteel.

"The thing is, you have good people up in the box that are the eyes for you. We have good people doing that, so it's a great situation," he said. "It's all about communication."

And now, you have a better idea of how it works.

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