Building A Staff Goes Beyond Assistants
As Neal Brown begins the large and important task of assembling his immediate staff of 10 assistant coaches at West Virginia, there are also many other decisions to be made in terms of the personnel who will inhabit the Milan Puskar Center in 2019. It’s not just those 10 assistants that are important, although picking a crew that can work together and understands the head coach’s vision is vital. Brown must also decide on who will run the other sections of the program, and ensure that they also fit into his plan.
Following is a comparison of the staff positions at WVU and Troy in several of the major support areas. West Virginia does have a few more spots overall than the Trojan program lists, but the disparity isn’t a large one. Also, duties and titles aren’t always a one-to-one comparison, as some tasks might be handled by one staffer or group at Troy and a different one at WVU.
Strength and Conditioning – Led by Mike Joseph, who oversees the entire strength and conditioning program at WVU but who focuses on football, the Mountaineers have four other staffers directly involved in the program, including Darl Bauer, Chad Snodgrass, Alex Mitchell and graduate assistant Will Johnson.
Joseph is an accomplished professional with national credentials and a stellar reputation, while Bauer is a veteran with nearly a decade of experience at WVU who focuses on applied performance – in short, workouts with direct applications to the movements that players make on the field.
Troy lists a pair of strength and conditioning coaches – lead man Rafael Horton and assistant Ben Thebaud.
Recruiting – WVU Director of Player Personnel Ryan Dorchester has been removed from one WVU directory site, mirroring information that has him on the move to the University of Houston. The cupboard is far from bare, however, as recruiting coordinator Casey Smithson is still on hand. With an intimate knowledge of West Virginia’s current players and offered targets, he would be a logical choice to keep on in some capacity. Graduate assistant Nicole Walton was also on staff in 2018.
At Troy the picture was a bit different, with assistant coach Al Pogue pulling double duty as cornerbacks coach and as the head of recruiting, but sharing many of those tasks with Director of Player Personnel Brian Bennett. Bennett has worked his way up quickly through positions as a student assistant, graduate assistant and quality control coach, most recently at Texas in 2017. They were supported by on-campus recruiting and assistant operations director Patrick Johnston.
Both staffs were also supported by various graduate assistants, who are allowed to perform on-campus recruiting activities and make phone calls provided they have passed the NCAA-mandated tests that all coaches must successfully complete.
Operations – WVU’s Alex Hammond departed for a job in the private sector, but one that is still linked to Dana Holgorsen through the presence of his agent, Trace Armstrong. That leaves Robert Glowacky in charge of football operations, where he handled many of the day-to-day tasks in the program.
Troy’s ops director is Mark Perry, a veteran high school coach who moved into that position with the Trojans in 2018. He has longstanding ties to Brown, and is a very strong candidate to accompany him to WVU. At least one recruiting target has indicated that move is in the works.
Again, as with recruiting, it might be the best of both worlds if Brown retained Glowacky while bringing Perry aboard.
Player Development – This is a wide ranging area, which can include academics, counseling, life skills, tutoring and any of a number of areas. It has as many different titles as it does approaches to management.
At West Virginia, on the academic side, Brittney O’Dell heads the group, which includes four full-time staffers and four graduate assistant/internship spots. That is an area that has been beefed up in recent years, and which has shown excellent results.
At Troy, it is more of a shared model, with an athletic department-wide staff of six covering the needs of the entire athletic department.
As such, it’s difficult to picture many changes in this group.
Graduate Assistants – NCAA rules limit teams to four on-field graduate assistant positions who can coach during practices and games, but there are typically more GAs on school rosters. Those additional GAs often assist with other duties, such as video breakdown, analysis and more, but can’t directly coach players.
West Virginia had four on-field GAs this year, and three others who assisted while not having a coaching or on-field presence. Tyler Orlosky (offense), Julian Miller (defense) and Michael Molinari (special teams) were three of WVU’s on-field GAs in 2018. Troy listed two, with both interestingly being on the offensive side of the ball.
The transient nature of graduate assistants makes these positions ones that are often in flux. NCAA rules allow a GA to remain in place for two years, with the possibility of adding a third if they have completed at least 24 hours of graduate school classes. However, they cannot be GAs once they are more than seven years removed from the date they earned their undergraduate degree or the end of their collegiate eligibility.
GAs are often the last positions to get filled on a staff, and the competition for spots is fierce. Obviously, those with ties to either the program or the assistant coaches will have a bit of an “in” when applying for those spots.
Quality Control/Analysts – West Virginia had two analysts, Ryan Nehlen (offense) and Casey Vance (defense), on staff this year. Both are Mountaineer alums and West Virginia natives.
Troy went heavy on these positions, perhaps to help make up for the fewer number of GAs. The Trojans employed five people in this area, including senior analyst Webb Hamilton.
As with some other staff positions, there can be crossovers here. WVU used some of its off-field GAs to perform some of the duties that Troy’s analysts did, so in comparing and contrasting the numbers, it is also instructive to look at the totals from the two groups.