MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — You go about it every West Virginia game you watch, you and your buddies, whether you’re at a bar or at a watch party at home.
Third-and-8, up four points, six minutes to go, and West Virginia’s opponent has the ball on the Mountaineer 35-yard line.
“Blitz!” says one guy. “Get them back out of field goal range.”
“No drop into a zone,” says another. “Just stop them short of the first down. Keep the clock running, get the ball back and work on it.”
Who’s right? Who’s wrong?
You won’t know until after the play. That’s the beauty of being a fan.
But what if you are a coach, especially a West Virginia defensive coach this year? How is it going to work as you have Jordan Lesley coaching the D-line and sharing responsibilities for calling the plays and setting the strategy with Jahmile Addae, who is the cornerbacks coach?
This became a reality when Vic Koenning, the defensive coordinator, left following a tawdry incident that led to his resignation.
The defensive situation became unhinged, with new coaches coming in and having to devise a system that worked better than a bunch of guys over pizza, pepperoni rolls and beer off in a bar or a restaurant making the calls.
On the defensive side this year, Lesley and Addae are listed not as co-coordinators, as it is on the offensive side, but as defensive leaders … and they feel like they’ve got things worked out pretty well so that there isn’t any arguing back and forth during the game when situations come up and, worse yet, so there are no “I told you so’s” when they disagree and a defensive strategy works or doesn’t work.
“The mechanics are worked out during the week. We’re on the same page,” Lesley explained. “It’s just an open line of communication between both of us.”
“Jordan and I will meet and talk those things through before they happen. It won’t be a game-day conversation. That’s where you sit down a say, ‘OK, this is what’s going to happen.’ You have an action sheet that tells you what you want to do in certain scenarios,” Addae said.
“Those conversations are going on during the week, not just between Jordan and me but the entire staff. By the time we get to game day, with Jordan calling it, he’ll know what I want in those situations. We’ve had a few mock situations in practices where we’ve gone through it but you don’t want me to hear what’s on those conversations.”
The question of how this will work is one they’ve been bombarded with since Koenning left.
“That’s what everyone’s been asking,” Addae admitted. “The main question we get is ‘How are you guys working together?”
It all really started last year when they first came together, Lesley coming up with Coach Neal Brown and Addae coming over from Arizona.
“We’ve been sitting in the same rooms, having the same discussions, agreeing to disagree since last year. At the end of day, we would come up with the solution that would be best for the defense and best for the program,” Addae explained.
“Nothing has changed there. I learn something every day working with him. Not only that, Dontae Wright has been a defensive coordinator in his own right. We got Jeff Casteel, who brought me to to this place, in the room. So, to say this is going to be a dictatorship situation in this room or a two-headed horse, I think you’d be lying.”
Casteel has been a huge addition to the room, especially for Addae, who Casteel drecruited to WVU when he was in Morgantown as an assistant and defensive coordinator and who he worked with at Arizona as well.
When asked about working with Casteel, Addae put it this way:
“I don’t know if humbling is the right word. It’s been cool to turn around and see Coach Casteel in there and be able to pick his brain in there. Lord knows, I owe him a lot from my first job to my first start. A lot of firsts. It’s comforting to have him there. We know he’s done some really brilliant things here and in other places. Any time you can bring that type of knowledge into a room it’s obviously helpful. It’s been awesome.”
The idea is to work together, especially for Lesley and Addae as the leaders of the group.
“You evaluate every day what a guy can and can’t do and how it fits into your system. We talk about those things not even on a daily basis. We talk from drill to drill about that,” Lesley said. “Me and Coach Addae are always going ‘What do you think here? What do you like here? What can this guy do? Do you like this package?’ It’s starting to come together.”
Getting to finally work with it for a full game, it is going to take a lot of communication. Lesley will be his defensive line group and making the defensive calls. Addae will be his corners and Casteel will be in the press box along with Wright, where they both can get a panoramic view of what’s going on with the defense and pass their observations on down to the field.
“Right now I feel we have a good handle on how we’re handling things and I think we will continue to grow as a group, just as we ask our kids to do,” Addae said.