The worst-kept secret has finally become official: West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel is headed to Arizona to join Rich Rodriguez in the same role.
Mountaineer defensive assistants Bill Kirelawich and David Lockwood are headed with him as well, Arizona announced Wednesday.
Both Casteel and Kirelawich coached with Rodriguez when he was the head man in West Virginia. Though their relationship went through its share of rocky moments, it was Rodriguez who asked Casteel to switch to the 3-3-5 stack defense that has become a trademark of his and the Mountaineers.
Casteel recalled during his media availability leading up to the Discover Orange Bowl:
"I think when we first came here, we thought that we'd be able to maybe get a niche in recruiting where we were having to go and recruit some of the three technique, so we thought it might be easier to get the tweener type kids, linebacker, the 6-foot-2, 185, 190, 200-pound kid and let them grow into 230, 235-pound kids that could run. So we tried to get a niche that way defensively along with Rich bringing in the spread and trying to get a niche offensively that way. It's kind of grown from that.
"We can morph into a lot of different things, I think, out of it. So it's been good to us. Over the last eight, nine, 10 years we've been fairly consistent. So it's been good for us."
Though reports had linked Casteel to Arizona since Rodriguez was hired last month, he steadfastly declined to comment on any speculation and wanted to focus on getting the team ready for the bowl game. But his past history, coupled with a desire to be seen as a viable candidate to become a head coach, made this seem like a move that was destined to be made.
Casteel issued a statement through West Virginia:
“I have enjoyed my time at West Virginia University, and it’s been 11 great years. I have coached some outstanding young men, and I would like to thank them for their hard work and dedication. I want to thank the coaches and staff members I have been associated with during my time at WVU for their work and support. The fans also have been great, and I want to thank them as well."
Now the big question for West Virginia moving forward is who coach Dana Holgorsen will hire to replace Casteel, and what type of defense the Mountaineers will run in the future. You have to go back nearly 10 years to remember a time when the Mountaineers ran a more traditional defensive formation.
Say what you will about the 3-3-5, it proved to be effective for Casteel. West Virginia ranked No. 3 in the nation in total defense in 2010, and No. 33 this season.
In Kirelawich, West Virginia is losing a lifer. He has been an assistant with the team since 1979, serving primarily as the defensive line coach.
Athletic director Oliver Luck also issued a statement on losing three defensive coaches:
“I want to thank our three departing defensive coaches for their more than 50 years of service to West Virginia University. They have been a part of much success and have left a lasting impact on our program and our student-athletes. Our football program will now move forward to fill our vacancies, and I am confident that Dana Holgorsen will bring in talented coaches that our players will continue to thrive under.”