West Virginia’s two returning defensive coaches from the 2019 season will share coordination responsibilities for the 2020 campaign. Additionally, as expected, Jeff Casteel, who was hired by WVU four months ago as a defensive analyst, has been elevated to an assistant position and will coach the outside linebackers.
The Mountaineers had to fill a hole in their staff left by the departure of Vic Koenning, who had previously been WVU’s defensive coordinator and safeties coach. West Virginia’s separation with Koenning was announced last week after an investigation into alleged insensitive comments made by Koenning.
With Koenning’s departure, WVU head coach Neal Brown decided to split the defensive coordinator duties. Jordan Lesley will oversee the front of the defense, and Jahmile Addae will handle the back. Casteel will coach the outside linebackers, and Dontae Wright will now coach the safeties. Jeff Koonz will coach the inside linebackers and oversee the special teams units.
Wright was originally hired to coach the outside ‘backers, but will now move to oversee the safety spots. That makes room for Casteel to work with the outside linebackers, where he has extensive experience.
“Given the timing and unique circumstances surrounding the pandemic, we are going to divide responsibilities and use a committee approach,” WVU head coach Brown said. “We are promoting Jeff Casteel to an on-the-field position and know he will be a great contributor. We have an outstanding group of defensive coaches, and I have the utmost confidence in their ability.”
West Virginia installed a new defense last year, and it had only two coaches returning on that side of the ball – Lesley and Addae. The uniqueness of the 4-2-5 base alignment, with many variations, also likely contributed to the decision to elevate from within. It is not a scheme run by many teams, which meant a pool of candidates from outside the program was limited. Also contributing is the timing of the needed replacement; WVU is already on the field for small group workouts and is slated to begin more extensive practice sessions in early August.
Casteel returned to West Virginia on March 27, 2020, as a defensive analyst. He brings 33 years of defensive coaching experience, including 11 years at WVU (2001-11) where he helped the Mountaineers win three BCS bowl games. In his 32 years as a college coach, the Paden City, West Virginia, native has helped guide teams to 14 conference championships and 15 bowl appearances and has mentored numerous All-Americans and professional players.