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Search on for new coaches

MORGANTOWN - After more than a month of speculation on the fate of the man who is now West Virginia's former defensive coordinator, don't expect anything close to that before WVU's new defensive boss is hired.

In fact, if it takes more than a few days - or less - to iron out replacements, that would be surprising. At least one, Oklahoma State assistant Joe DeForest, already appears to be in the fold.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen was working on the matter well before he lost three of his four defensive coaches. Wednesday's press release from the University of Arizona announcing that new coach Rich Rodriguez had managed to steer Jeff Casteel, Bill Kirelawich and David Lockwood to the desert was merely the official end of that part of the process.

Where Holgorsen turns for replacements for the three now quickly becomes the topic.

"I wouldn't expect it to take too long,'' said a source close to the football program. "For starters, you can't go long without a full staff during [the three weeks remaining until national signing day]. And it's not like he didn't suspect that he would be hiring someone.''

Indeed, before Casteel and the others even resigned, word from Oklahoma was that Holgorsen was reaching back to his Oklahoma State ties and courting DeForest, OSU's special teams and safeties coach.

At least two reports out of Oklahoma Wednesday night said DeForest had already resigned at OSU.

If he is, indeed, headed to Morgantown, WVU officials won't announce it until the formalities of background checks and such are completed.

DeForest would likely come on board as Casteel's replacement as defensive coordinator or perhaps as a co-coordinator. It would be a stretch to think DeForest would be attracted to WVU simply as a position coach, given that his salary at OSU last year was $400,000.

DeForest also has a reputation as a top recruiter in Texas, and his special teams have been highly thought of for years. And the Mountaineers could use any help they can get with special teams that have been erratic, at best, in recent years.

His name is not the only one that has surfaced, though. Houston defensive coordinator Brian Stewart resigned his job there last week, which immediately fueled speculation that he might be headed to WVU. But while Stewart has solid credentials, including a long NFL resume that includes a stint as the defensive coordinator off the Dallas Cowboys, he has no apparent ties to Holgorsen. That doesn't disqualify him, of course, but it also doesn't make him a sure thing for the position.

There has also been talk of Randy Shannon, the former Miami head coach who was the Hurricanes' ultra-successful defensive coordinator between 2001 and 2007. Shannon did not coach this season after being fired at Miami in November of 2010.

Also to be worked out is the fate of the lone defensive assistant remaining on the West Virginia staff. Safeties coach Steve Dunlap is the only remaining member of the staff with any historic ties whatsoever to the school. He played at WVU in the 1970s, coached here for more than two decades (including as the coordinator under Don Nehlen in the 1990s) and left only during the seven years Rodriguez was the head coach.

As for the departed coaches, it finally became official late Wednesday afternoon that the three had been hired by Rodriguez at Arizona - Casteel as the Wildcats' defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, Kirelawich as the defensive line coach and Lockwood as the cornerbacks coach. That completes a 10-man staff that, including Rodriguez, now numbers eight former WVU coaches. The others are Calvin Magee, Rod Smith, Tony Gibson and Tony Dews.

Casteel's departure had been speculated almost since the moment Arizona hired Rodriguez just before Thanksgiving. That speculation only grew when Rodriguez announced most of his offensive coaching hires within days, but continued to hold off on naming defensive coaches while waiting for WVU to conclude its season with the Jan. 4 Orange Bowl.

"I have enjoyed my time at West Virginia University and it's been 11 great years,'' Casteel said in a statement released by WVU Wednesday night. "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.''

Casteel had a multi-year contract at West Virginia that was scheduled to pay him $450,000 in 2012 and $575,000 in 2013. Kirelawich and Lockwood each made $250,000 last season.

It's not clear how much they will make at Arizona, but there are no monetary issues remaining between the three and WVU, such as buyouts or the like. That was not the case a year ago when the offensive staff - and eventually head coach Bill Stewart - was fired and the school paid well over $3 million ($1.65 million to Stewart) to those who were fired not to coach.

WVU athletic director Oliver Luck also issued a statement Wednesday regarding the departure of the three.

"I want to thank our three departing defensive coaches for their more than 50 years of service to West Virginia University.'' Luck said. "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."

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com.


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