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Monday, January 07, 2008

Hokay. Barwis and his S&C staff are officially Michigan employees:

Rodriguez said Sunday that he has hired the Mountaineers' six-member strength and conditioning staff to work under him at Michigan.

"They have been an integral part of our success on the field and I know they will help us attain our desired success at Michigan," Rodriguez said in a statement.

The staff consists of director Mike Barwis; assistants Chris Allen, Parker Whiteman and Kentaro Tamura; and graduate assistants Dennis Murray and Jesse Miller.
This is two out of the three high-level targets secured; Jeff Casteel is apparently staying behind. Meanwhile, ESPN's article on the Michigan hirings has been updated:
A number of West Virginia assistant coaches, including assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Calvin McGee, are headed to Michigan to follow former Mountaineers' coach Rich Rodriguez, according to a source.

Six of the coaches are McGee, offensive line coach Greg Frey, quarterbacks coach Rod Smith, safeties coach Bruce Tall, defensive backs coach Tony Gibson and wide receivers coach Tony Dews. Strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis is also headed to Michigan.
Tall (safeties) and Dews (wide receivers), previously undecided, are now supposed to be coming to Michigan. (The "supposed" will remain until confirmation comes from Michigan itself.)

This might put an end to hopes that Erik Campbell would be retained, but not so fast, my friend(!). Dews' coaching career is remarkably vagabond. Last year, of course, he coached West Virginia's wide receivers, but he did special teams and linebackers the year before at UNLV, tight ends at CMU the two years before that, and defensive line at Holy Cross the year before that. In his time as a grad assistant at WVU (a remarkable stretch of four years without a cross-country move) he worked with the offensive line and secondary. Aside from quarterbacks and running backs there isn't a position on the field Dews hasn't coached. In college he was a tight end at Liberty.

It appears that Dews' primary value to Rodriguez is in recruiting, as his wide receivers expertise can't possibly be the motivating factor for his hiring. If it makes sense to shift him elsewhere he could end up as the linebackers coach, which would mollify the general desire to keep Campbell around.

Playing devil's advocate, though: how hard is it to coach wide receivers? They have to run routes correctly and make a few hot reads, but other than that it's catch-run-go. Linebackers, on the other hand, have to read all sorts of things as quickly as possible, blitz, cover, and etc etc. A moment's hesitation and you get Obi Ezeh this year: promising but mostly ineffective. Szabo's two-year stint at LB coach saw a remarkable upturn in productivity from the 2006 unit and then mediocre-at-best play in 2007, though there's plenty of evidence (recruting JUCO Austin Panter, starting redshirt freshman who-dat Ezeh) that whatever problems the unit had were not on Szabo's shoulders. It seems if you're going to have a spot on the staff for a meh technical coach who can recruit, it would be WR.

I think I still prefer Campbell, but Dews seems a fast riser -- a I-AA school to the MAC to the Mountain West to WVU in five years -- and I don't think Rodriguez will be made or broken by his choice of wide receivers coaches.

Assuming that the ESPN report is right, that leaves Rodriguez with the vast bulk of his WVU staff, everyone except Casteel, Stewart, and Kirelavich. Fred Jackson will fill Stewart's spot as a generic offensive assistant; Steve Stripling seems a logical choice for the DL spot. Defensive coordinator remains up in the air. Dean Hood from Wake Forest remains a guess based on deduction without tangible support. John Tenuta is out there, but will demand a hefty salary and is most likely ticketed for LSU.