Former Mountaineer assistant coach and Charlotte 49ers defensive coordinator Bruce Tall has returned to the university to serve as defensive line coach under defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen officially announced on WVUsports.com Wednesday.
Prior to Holgorsen’s announcement, FootballScoop.com was the first outlet to report on the addition of Tall to the West Virginia coaching staff early Tuesday morning.
In his first stint at West Virginia, Tall coached safeties under Rich Rodriguez from 2003 through 2007, then followed the once Mountaineer head coach to his next job at the University of Michigan, where he coached the defensive line for the Wolverines. He spent the last four seasons as defensive coordinator for a Charlotte football program that started the process of building into an FBS-level program in 2012 as a member of Conference USA beginning with the 2015 season.
Tall, who signed a two-year contract Wednesday, will make $250,000 each season, which includes incentives for goals met like number of wins in a season, bowl appearances, the program winning its first Big 12 championship and College Football Playoff appearances and wins.
As Tall fills the vacancy left on the coaching staff by offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Shannon Dawson taking the same positions with the Kentucky Wildcats in December, the West Virginia coaching staff is complete numbers-wise, but shows the offensive side of the ball with only three coaches and the defensive side with six as of this writing. Unbalanced on paper, the extra support for Gibson on defense could be an asset for West Virginia to turn close losses like TCU and Kansas State into wins and give the team a better chance to win blowouts like Oklahoma and Texas A&M this season in 2015.
Holgorsen shouldn’t need any restructuring of the coaching staff to absorb the duties left by Dawson as Holgorsen already calls offensive plays, which likely played a part in Dawson’s departure, and has been wildly effective in getting the most out of starting quarterbacks during his coaching career.
For the defensive coaches, some minimal restructuring could be valuable to get the most out of the West Virginia defense to better handle the challenges of the Big 12 Conference.
Senior Associate Head Coach and now one of three defensive line coaches Tom Bradley could transition from his current position back to coaching linebackers, which he did for a decade at Penn State, and allow Gibson, the current linebackers coach, to focus on developing new schemes and packages as defensive coordinator. With reassigning Bradley, Tall and fellow defensive line coach Damon Cogdell could split the defensive line coach responsibilities as one focuses on the interior of the line and the other working on the pass rush around the edge.
In a pass-driven league like the Big 12, Bradley’s experience also would be able to assist safeties coach Joe DeForest and cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell in bolstering West Virginia’s pass defense to better face the challenges of the offenses of Baylor, Texas Tech and TCU.
With the offense likely to play as good if not better with William Crest or David Sills at quarterback next season, the defense improving with some minor coaching assignment changes could turn West Virginia’s three Big 12 losses by a combined 24 points in November to a push for a conference championship and a marquee bowl appearance in January.