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Defensive Staff Experience Key for WVU's Gibson

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MORGANTOWN -

Tony Gibson has the title of defensive coordinator, but he isn't the only West Virginia football assistant whose staff biography lists the position.

The Mountaineers' defense boasts three coaches in addition to Gibson who have previous experience as a Division-I defensive coordinator. Tom Bradley comes with credentials that speak for themselves in his years at Penn State, while Brian Mitchell had the role at East Carolina and Joe DeForest served one season with WVU.

So now, in Gibson's first try as a coordinator at college football's top level, there are a lot of eyes and minds to help him along.

"That's great for Tony because we all have had experiences and different things that have happened to us along the way," Bradley said following a spring practice with the Mountaineers. "I'm happy to help out any way I can, whatever they ask me to do. That's what I do and that's the only way I know how to coach is we're all in this together."

The players have noticed a meeting of the minds on the defensive side of the ball. Coaches don't limit themselves to the conference room when it comes to sharing ideas and tweaking what they see on the field. After all, it's spring, and if changes need to be made, this is the time to work out the kinks before fall camp rolls around.

"It's a huge plus," junior linebacker Isaiah Bruce said of the experienced staff. "Everybody has their own insight as far as what they're used to, but everybody has been together for the most part to be able to be on the same page and know exactly what we want out of the whole defense. It makes it a lot easier for everyone."

Bradley, one of two coaches new to the program this season, oversaw the Nittany Lions' defenses for more than a decade. He understands the challenges that face a defensive coordinator and especially one doing the job for the first time.

He also knows firsthand that when you take on the top responsibility of calling the plays on game day, there are plenty of people who will doubt your decisions.

"The only difference now that Tony is the coordinator is he can't say, ‘Geez, I wouldn't have made that call,'" Bradley joked. "We'll be saying that. ‘No, I wouldn't have called that.'"

Gibson has shown no hesitation that an assistant may disagree with what he calls. He has taken on the challenge with a youthful exuberance that his players have noticed, but he remains open to any ideas along the way. 

"Sometimes he calls the plays through what we want to do," Bruce said. "We're like, ‘Hey, let's get after it," and he says let's blitz at them then. It's really fun."

Moving from his more familiar territory as a defensive backs coach to being more hands-on with the linebackers has helped Gibson get a feel for the unit as a whole. He involves himself in different aspects of practice as he works with new assistant Damon Cogdell to ready the linebackers for the fall.

As he prepares them, Gibson realizes just what kind of weapons he has in his arsenal. Each position right now across the linebacker corps is two-deep or better.

Players and coaches have lauded redshirt freshman Al-Rasheed Benton for his work this spring and junior college transfer Edward Muldrow's name continues to pop up as well. More recently, Martinsburg native Justin Arndt is making a case for himself as a swingman, capable of playing at each of the linebacker positions.  

"We know in this league, the way that the offenses and the tempo and all of the things that we're going to see, we're going to play a lot of snaps. So we need to have a lot of guys ready," Gibson said.

There are only three practices left, including the spring game, before the team breaks for the summer months. 

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