When Jeff Casteel, Dave Lockwood and Bill Kirlewich headed to Arizona to join Rich Rodriguez's staff, many wondered if the only other remaining member of the WVU defensive staff Steve Dunlap would return or not. Dunlap would come back, and with an expanded role. But he will be doing something he had not done yet with the Mountaineers, and that is special teams coordinator.
Joe DeForest came over from Oklahoma State to become the co-defensive coordinator and has also taken over responsibility of coaching the safeties. Daron Roberts goes from coaching inside receivers and special teams to cornerbacks. This left an opening at special teams and it was decided that Dunlap would coach there and also become an assistant head coach.
"It is a good opportunity," Dunlap said. "I've pretty much done everything defensively and I've always been involved with special teams but now I'm just going to be more involved. Hopefully with five coaches on defense and five on offense, it'll be more balanced out and we can spend more time on special teams."
The other new label that Dunlap has is assistant head coach. Not many understand what this entails, but it's not just a fancy title to throw in to make someone sound better. It has more of an impact off of the field rather than on it.
"I do all of the stuff that Dana [Holgorsen] doesn't want to do," Dunlap said jokingly. "I go to different speaking engagements that Dana can't make it to. Pretty much just stuff that the head coach can't make it to or doesn't have time to do."
So far this offseason, the NCAA and created big rule on special teams that will effect the Mountaineers next season. Like the NFL, they have moved the spot where kickoffs will take place up five yards to the 35 yard line. It is done for safety reasons, but it will help the WVU kickers get the ball further into the endzone, but it will also prevent guys like Tavon Austin from returning it.
"We won't have to change our demeanor or how we approach it because our kickoff team used to come from 10 yards away. Now we'll only have to approach it from five yards away. I've already made a call to a friend of mine who's in the NFL and he's explained a few things to me. It's not a drastic change but there will definitely be more touchbacks."
With spring practice beginning this weekend, Dunlap wants to get a feel of the guys who will contribute next season on special teams.
"There will be an emphasis on special teams in all phases," Dunlap said. "We're going to work on them everyday because that is a huge part of the game now. If you fail on special teams then odds are you're going to lose. As far as how we pick players, we're looking for football players. We're looking for guys who are hungry and guys who want to go out there and contribute."
Dunlap is the only remaining member of the coaching staff to have actually played at WVU. He is 10th in school history with 359 career tackles as a linebacker in the late 70s. He coached the WVU defensive backs from 1987-1992 and was the West Virginia defensive coordinator from 1991-2000.