WVU Coaching Rumor Mill
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — This is the time of year that the game of musical chair runs hot for college coaches. That’s especially true this year, as all 129 FBS schools have the opportunity to add a 10th assistant coach. That means 129 new full-time have been jobs created.
West Virginia has already filled its 10th assistant coaching position by staying in house and hiring Dan Gerberry, who had been worked as the team’s senior offensive analyst last year. Gerberry will work with the Mountaineer tight ends.
But Gerberry’s hiring doesn’t necessarily end the coaching carousel at WVU, and it’s certainly does not put an end to the long line of news and rumors involving college coaches. Some these tidbits directly affect the Mountaineers’ current staff and some to pertain to those who have West Virginia ties.
Here’s a look at what we know, and some of the rumors we’ve heard:
Is Doug Belk staying or going? – To this point Dana Holrogsen’s coaching staff has not had any attrition. Gerberry was added and so far none of the previous nine assistants have departed. That could be unusual, though, because every offseason since Holgorsen became WVU’s head coach in 2011 has included some assistant coaching turnover, often a great deal. But to this point, the coaching musical chairs haven’t taken any from Morgantown. But that may not necessary hold throughout the rest of the winter. Footballscoop.com recently reported that current WVU cornerback coach Doug Belk is a candidate for an opening on Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama. That’s plausible because Belk has been at West Virginia just one year and previously had worked as a graduate assistant for two seasons at Alabama. Belk is viewed as a very promising young coach, but it would make sense that the Georgia native would listen to Saban’s offer, if one is forthcoming. This isn’t a done deal yet, but something worth keeping an eye on.
Rick Trickett wanted to return? – Former Mountaineer offensive line coach Rick Trickett (1978-79 and 2001-06) had a long and successful run as Florida State’s offensive line coach following his departure from WVU. But after 11 seasons with the Seminoles, Trickett did not follow FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M this offseason nor was he retained at Florida State when Willie Taggart came in to take over the ‘Noles. Taggart chose instead to hire Greg Frey, who most recently had been the offensive tackles/tight ends coach at Michigan. Frey also has WVU connections, having replaced Trickett once before, taking over as the Mountaineers’ offensive line coach in 2007 before following Rich Rodriguez to Michigan the next year. While Trickett can be picky about his next employment, since FSU reportedly still owes him $602,000 as part of his previous contract, he reportedly would still like to coach. He’ll turn 70 this spring, but has apparently made several calls to see if there is any interest in his services. One of those inquiries reportedly was to West Virginia, though the conversation did not lead to a job offer.
A mess at Arizona – One of Trickett’s former offensive linemen, Garin Justice, also is very much in limbo. After a successful turn as the head coach at Concord (W.Va.) University, he jumped to the FBS ranks in 2016, becoming the offensive line coach at Florida Atlantic. Justice was retained at FAU when Lane Kiffin became the program’s head coach prior to the 2017 season. Last month Justice accepted a job at University of Arizona to become the offensive line coach under Rich Rodriguez. Of course we know that Rodriguez’s time in Tucson came to a sudden end after accusations of misconduct against Rich Rod. Kevin Sumlin has recently been hired to succeed Rodriguez, but the former Texas A&M coach is under no obligation to retain the former UA staff. Thus Justice and most all of the Wildcat football employees, who include those with WVU ties like Calvin Magee, Rod Smith and Jahmile Addae, are all up in the air. But Justice may have it even worse than the other Arizona assistants. Rumor has it that because Justice just arrived at Arizona and his contract still may not technically have begun yet, UA officials may try to squirm out of paying Justice any, or at least a major part, of his employment agreement. So, not only is Justice possibly out of a job, he also may be out of money previously though due him. If that rumor is true, certainly this will be headed to a court battle.
Leaving Happy Valley – Former Mountaineer tight end and graduate assistant Mike Villagrana (2004-07) has been working his way through the college coaching ranks since graduating from WVU. Most recently he’s been the recruiting coordinator at Penn State, but he’s reportedly leaving the Nittany Lions and will become recruiting coordinator at Mississippi State. Villagrana is following Joe Moorhead to Starkville, as Moorhead is making the transition from Penn State’s offensive coordinator to Mississippi State’s head coach.
Not moving to Happy Valley – Villagrana is one of several new members of the Bulldog staff who has Penn State ties. Another of those State College to Starkville moves nearly brought a former Mountaineer to Happy Valley. JaJuan Seider had been the running back coach on Dana Holgorsen’s staff from 2013-16, but left last winter to take over as the running back coach at the University of Florida. Unfortunately for Seider, his first year in Gainesville was a disaster, and UF head coach Jim McElwain was fired midway through the season. Florida eventually hired Dan Mullen to lead the program after Mullen had served as the head coach at Mississippi State the previous eight seasons. Mullen retained six members of McElwain’s previous staff – at least for now – including Seider. But Seider was apparently keeping his options open in case he wasn’t kept on at UF, and reportedly was in consideration for the open running back coaching position at Penn State. But the Lions’ recently named former Army assistant David Corley as its new running back coach, and it now appears that Seider is going to stay in Gainesville.
Pro connections – Two coaches with West Virginia ties have new jobs in the NFL. Alex Van Pelt, who is a native of Grafton and quarterbacked Pitt from 1989-92, was hired as the quarterback coach for the Cincinnati Bengals. And Frank Cignetti, Jr., who is the son of the former Mountaineer head coach (1976-79), was recently named the new quarterback coach of the Green Bay Packers.