Alabama Native Al Pogue Adapting To West Virginia
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Like many members of West Virginia’s new football coaching staff who followed Neal Brown from Troy to Morgantown, Al Pogue had spent most of his life in the south.
In his case, he was Alabama-born and raised.
Pogue grew up in Mobile, attended Alabama State in Montgomery and then after college spent 13 years as a high school coach, mostly in Montgomery. In 2011, he took a job as a quality control coach at Auburn, holding that for three years before landing a spot as the cornerback coach at Troy in 2015.
Five years later, he’s venturing outside the state of Alabama for the first time on a full-time basis. Pogue and four other Trojan coaches – Vic Koenning, Jordan Lesley, Matt Moore and Sean Reagan – now call the Mountain State home.
“I’ve never lived outside Alabama,” noted Pogue, who is going to coach outside linebackers for the Mountaineers. “I was just very fortunate to get started in my career as a high school coach in the Alabama. I had an opportunity to go to Auburn for three (years) in kind of an off-the-field capacity. Then I was hired by Larry Blakeney, who was a legendary coach at Troy. He retired in the middle of the season. Coach Neal Brown comes in, and I was very fortunate to be the only defensive guy that he retained. We had a nice stretch, a nice run at Troy. He comes here, and lo and behold, he brings me north with him, so I’m excited.”
The biggest concern Pogue has about living in West Virginia is the snow.
As he sat and talked to the assembled media crops in the Puskar Center recently, it was a cold, damp February day outside.
“I’ll admit I’m not accustomed to the weather yet,” Pogue chuckled. “If it does snow and you see a guy driving with his flashers on who is gripping the steering wheeling real tight with both hands, it’s Coach Pogue; don’t get too mad at me.”
The next day did bring a fair amount of snow and ice to Morgantown, hitting just when the morning traffic was at its peak. One of the Mountaineers’ assistant strength coaches, Alex Mitchell, flipped his truck on the way in to work that day. His vehicle was battered, but Mitchell emerged only bruised.
And Pogue reportedly navigated his first winter weather drive without any major issues.
Pogue was a three-year starter in the defensive secondary at Alabama State and worked with the cornerbacks in his five seasons at Troy, but he doesn’t think coaching outside linebackers at WVU is going to take a big adjustment.
“I’m very fortunate that I’ve worked with Coach (Vic) Koenning for four years now,” Pogue said of West Virginia’s new defensive coordinator, who held that same role at Troy. “I’m very comfortable with him and his system.
“Most people don’t know that while they are called outside linebackers, we like to use the phrase inside corners,” he said jokingly. “I feel comfortable with the move because I’ve been with Coach Koenning so long.”
As for the linebacker he’s looking for, Pogue is more worried about the size of the heart than the size of the player.
“I want the best player we can find at that position, regardless of size, though like everyone, I do like players who have length, but I’m not going to shun a guy just because is 5-foot-9 or 5-foot-10. Any guy who can help us win Big 12 championships, I’m all for that guy, regardless of size.”
While Pogue coached cornerbacks at Troy, he has worked with plenty of other positions in the past.
“I think being a high school coach helped me the most along the way. You wear many hats at that level, having to coach not only defensive backs, but also special teams guys,” he said. “You would have to coach the running backs, then do the laundry, things like that. So that helped me prepare for this opportunity more than anything. Of course, going to Auburn also helped polish me a little bit. For the most part, I think being a high school coach helped me the furthest, as far as my proving grounds.”
At Troy, Pogue was also known as known as an excellent recruiter, though he territory then was mainly in Alabama. Now at West Virginia, he’s going to expand to different areas.
“I will be in Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania, Detroit and I’ll have some secondary stuff down in the southeast – Alabama, Georgia, things of that nature,” Pogue explained. “It’s just all (going to) be new; getting in and establishing relationships with the coaches and people that are connected with the kids. Getting to know the areas really well just comes from doing my homework and just being thorough in my approach. I’m excited about it. It’s new, it’s challenging. I just think it could be very beneficial for us if we can get in there and get some good kids from those areas.”