(Re)Learning The Ropes

After a nine-year absence, David McMichael has returned to West Virginia. The veteran coach, whose career has spanned 33 years, has begun his 19th season with the Mountaineers. His first 18 seasons ran from 1983-2000, and he's now beginning the new decade at the school where he has coached the longest.

For the last nine years, McMichael has helped build the University ofConnecticut into a solid Big East team, but when an opening materialized with the Mountaineers, it only took a first offer to bring the Kettering, Ohio native "home."

"Stew contacted and asked if I would be interested and certainly, I was interested," said McMichael. "This is a great place. I loved it when I was here the first 18 years. Family is important and my family is here on my wife's side. I have family in Ohio and now I'm only four hours away and not 14. It's a great place to life, a wonderful community. It's an honor to be able to coach for the Mountaineers again."

McMichael's first run at West Virginia was under then-head coach Don Nehlen. He was responsible for coaching both the tight ends and the tackles, a responsibility that he held during his time at WVU. During his final season with West Virginia in 2000, McMichael coached alongside future head Coach Bill Stewart.

"[Coach Stewart and I] worked together for a year," said McMichael. "I have known Stew a number of years before that. We have known each other a long time."

Following the 2000 season, Nehlen retired, and McMichael left the Mountaineer program to coach at Connecticut where he continued as a tight ends coach. During his nine seasons with the Huskies, he had great success. UConn went to four bowls and established themselves as a tough, hard-nosed team that was competitive with anyone on its schedule.. However, when he received the phone call from Coach Stewart last December, McMichael said the answer was a no-brainer. Thus, he returned to WVU – although not immediately.

Unlike many coaches, Stewart insisted that McMichael coach through the rest of the Huskies' season and finish his recruiting duties before packing up for Morgantown. Stewart also told McMichael that he did not want him contacting any UConn recruits in an attempt to sway them to West Virginia – a rarity in today's dog-eat-dog world of collegiate recruiting. So, when McMichael arrived in January following coaching in a Connecticut victory in the PapaJohns.com bowl, he focused his attention on reacquainting himself with the WVU program, which obviously had undergone a lot of changes during his time at UConn. While he was still familiar with the Mountaineers as an annual opponent, he kenw that there was a lot to learn and adjust to before spring football practice.

At first, the longtime offensive line specialist worked on developing a chemistry with the team and coaches and learning the Mountaineers' offense and special teams. This spring will be important for McMichael, just as it will for the rest of the team in developing their talents and techniques for the fall.

"My expectations are to make the tight end position as good as I can possibly make it," said McMichael. "I think there are some good players there and I need to do a good job of developing their potential and translating it on to Saturdays."

While the spring is often a time for players to prove themselves and get their positions set in stone, McMichael will be using this spring to hone his coaching abilities and work on learning the offense as well as assessing his personnel. There's also the matter of learning the terminology of WVU's system.

"My focus is learning what we're doing here," said McMichael. "Learning the offense and the philosophy. They are common things but now when I talk to my tight ends, something I may have called apples [in Connecticut] may be called oranges here."

There will undoubtedly be some adjusting to be made for McMichael to fully fit into the football program at West Virginia, just as there are for any new coach. He will work to mesh his tight ends with the offensive line and coach Dave Johnson in the blocking scheme, and he'll be working to boost WVU's recruiting profile in western Pennsylvania as well as New York and New Jersey. Those latter two areas were places he recruited for UConn, so he won't be going in blind there either. With his previous success at WVU as a foundation, it figures that he will quickly assimilate everything he has been working on and prove himself as a solid addition to the Mountaineer staff.

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