News, Notes & Rumors – 2/12
From Blue & Gold to Black & Gold – The Pittsburgh Steelers recently made two hires of people with WVU backgrounds.
Blaine Stewart, the son of former Mountaineer head coach Bill Stewart, will be a coaching assistant for the Steelers, and Tom Bradley, a long-time assistant coach and defensive coordinator at Penn State who coached West Virginia’s defensive line in 2014, was hired by Pittsburgh to serve as the team’s defensive secondary coach.
Blaine recently graduated from the University of Charleston, having split his college career between James Madison and UC. His job with the Steelers will be his first foray into the coaching profession. Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin has long been a friend of the Stewart family, going back to 1995 when then VMI head coach Bill Stewart gave Tomlin his first coaching job after graduating from William & Mary. Now heading into his 12th season leading the Steelers, Tomlin is giving the son of his late mentor his first chance in the profession as well.
Bradley certainly isn’t looking for an entry level position. Having coached for nearly 40 years, Bradley has long been one of the most respected defensive minds in the college game. Now he’s taking that knowledge to the NFL for the first time, where he’s replacing long-time Steeler safety (1989-98) and assistant coach (2011-17) Carnell Lake in overseeing Pittsburgh’s secondary. A native of Johnstown, Pa., Bradley was an undersized but ferocious defensive back for Penn State from 1975-78 who earned the nickname “Scrap.” After his PSU playing career ended, he immediately joined Joe Paterno’s staff as a G.A. and then became a full-time assistant a year later in 1980. For the next 32 years, through good times and scandalous ones, Bradley was a fixture with the Nittany Lions. He was the team’s defensive coordinator from 2000-11. He even served as PSU’s interim head coach when Paterno was unceremoniously fired in the wake of the heinous events surrounding the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Bradley re-emerged in the coaching ranks at WVU in 2014, working with the Mountaineer defensive line. The next year, with an offer to become UCLA’s defensive coordinator, Bradley left for the West Coach. He remained at UCLA until head coach Jim Mora and the entire Bruin staff were let go after a 5-6 season in 2017.
Now Bradley returns to the Western Pennsylvania stomping grounds he knows so well from his decades recruiting the area for Penn State.
Replacing Dews – Bradley wasn’t the only coach moving from the college ranks to the NFL recently.
Last week WVU assistant Tony Dews was hired as the new running backs coach for the Tennessee Titans.
This will be the first foray into the NFL by Dews, who had spent his previous 20 years in the profession in the college ranks. A native of Clifton, Va., and graduate of Liberty University (’97), Dews had worked at West Virginia in several different stints. He had been a graduate assistant for the Mountaineers under Don Nehlen and Rich Rodriguez from 1999-2001. He returned to WVU as the team’s receiver coach in 2007, before following Rodriguez to Michigan (2008-10) and eventually Arizona (2012-16). He came back to West Virginia in February of 2017, replacing Ja’Juan Seider as WVU’s running back coach after Seider took a job at Florida. Seider was recently hired to coach running backs at Penn State.
With Dews gone, Dana Holgorsen has an opening on his Mountaineer coaching staff. When a vacancy occurs at WVU, naturally we on the outside start looking for someone with Mountaineer ties.
One candidate you can scratch off the list is Robert Gillespie. A running back at the University of Florida (1998-2001), Gillespie came to West Virginia from Oklahoma State when Holgorsen became WVU’s head coach in 2011. Gillespie spent two seasons mentoring Mountaineer running backs until he accepted an opportunity to join Butch Jones at Tennessee in 2013. Gillespie remained with Jones and the Volunteers for the next season, but when Jones was fired at the end of the 2017 campaign, Gillespie and the entire UT staff were imperiled. Tennessee’s subsequent head coaching search hit many speed bumps along the way before Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt eventually was hired. The only member of Jones’ coaching staff Pruitt retained was Gillespie.
So, if Gillespie isn’t going to return to WVU, who will fill Dews’ spot as the Mountaineer running back coach?
Some ask about Seider, though just being hired at Penn State would seem to make the timing bad for a return to Morgantown.
Quincy Wilson would certainly be a candidate. The former WVU star running back has been coaching at the Division II level the past two seasons, working at Glenville State in 2016 and West Virginia State in 2017.
What about Calvin Magee? The former Mountaineer assistant had been Rich Rodriguez’s right-hand man for many years at Michigan and Arizona, but Magee had to find a new job after Rich Rod and his staff were let go last month. Magee appeared to find solid ground, being hired as the offensive coordinator at New Mexico a few weeks ago. But Calvin has landed in the midst of another ugly scandal. The Lobos’ head coach Bob Davie has recently been suspended for a variety of issues, and now that New Mexico program may be looking for a new head coach, who will ultimately want to hire his own assistants. Thus Magee may be job hunting again soon. Admittedly Calvin burned some bridges when he departed WVU in 2007, so could that P.R. damage be repaired in he wanted to return?
Any of the Tricketts would seem possible for Holgorsen as well. Rick, Travis and Clint have not coached running back previously, but each has worked with multiple positions and any one of them certainly could make the transition.
And then you have to look at some coaches who have past ties to Dana. Dennis Simmons (Oklahoma), Clay McGuire (Texas Tech) and Clarence McKinney (Arizona) each have coaching jobs at the moment, but having worked with Holgorsen in the past, could one be enticed to WVU?
Mountaineer G.A. moving on – Cody Gibson spent this past year as a graduate assistant coach with West Virginia’s football team, working mainly with the tight ends.
Now Gibson, the son of WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, has a full-time job in the profession. He was recently hired as an offensive quality control coach at the University of Illinois.
Hall of Fame – It was recently announced that Randy Moss will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2018. The Rand, W.Va., product is the sixth West Virginia native to earn a spot in Canton. Moss will join Frank Gatski of Farmington, Gino Marchetti of Smithers, Sam Huff of Farmington (technically he grew up outside that Marion County town), Joe Stydahar of Shinnston (who was born in Pennsylvania but grew up in that Harrison County community) and Greasy Neale of Parkersburg.
Moss and Gatski played at Marshall, though Gatski finished his career at Auburn after his college days were interrupted by World War II. Marchetti attended San Francisco, and Neale, while he coached WVU, went to college at West Virginia Wesleyan. Huff and Stydahar are WVU alums. The only other product of a West Virginia college who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is Cliff Battles, who attended West Virginia Wesleyan in the early ’30, but the future Washington Redskins star running back was from Akron, Ohio.