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Rich Rodriguez could be close to landing his defensive coordinator

Jeff Casteel

Jeff Casteel

Speculation heated up Monday night that West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel will join Rich Rodriguez at Arizona.

Filling the position of defensive coordinator has been Rodriguez’s top priority, and Casteel has been his top choice.

Casteel was with Rodriguez during his entire seven-year tenure at West Virginia, and Rodriguez’s inability to bring Casteel with him to Michigan after the 2007 is considered among the top reasons for a lack of success with the Wolverines.

Casteel has had very little to say publicly about the possibility of coming to Arizona, but he also hasn’t said no. The presumption is that any kind of announcement would wait until after the Mountaineers play Clemson in the Orange Bowl on Wednesday night.

Rodriguez, who had self-imposed a mid-December deadline to fill out his coaching staff, has held four positions open, which suggests he has been willing to wait for a special someone. Rodriguez said he wanted his defensive coordinator to have input on the hiring of the other defensive assistants.

So far, Rodriguez has only one defensive assistant — secondary coach Tony Gibson. Rodriguez hired four offensive assistants — co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Calvin Magee, co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Rod Smith, receivers coach Tony Dews and offensive line coach Robert Anae, a holdover from last season’s staff.

If Casteel — who runs a 3-3-5 defense that emphasizes speed over size — jumps to Arizona, he probably won’t come cheap.

He has a contract at West Virginia through June 30, 2014. His base salary is $400,000 this season, with scheduled $50,000 increases for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. He also has a retention bonus of $75,000 if he is still at West Virginia on Feb. 1, 2013.

So, he could make $575,000 if he was with the Mountaineers for the 2013 season.

Casteel, a native of West Virginia, was set to join Rodriguez at Michigan, before new Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart offered him $275,000 — $10,000 more than Michigan — and a multi-year contract.

Mike Parrish, who was a director of football operations at Michigan and is the new man for that role at Arizona, is quoted as saying in the book, “Three and Out” that if West Virginia didn’t hire Stewart, “Jeff Casteel comes to Michigan.”

John U. Bacon, the author of the book about Rodriguez’s time at Michigan, wrote:

“And if Casteel had joined Rodriguez’s staff? Parrish didn’t hesitate: ‘It would have been completely different.’”

Casteel coached the defensive line in his first season at West Virginia in 2001, then was promoted to co-defensive coordinator — with new Arizona State head coach Todd Graham in 2002.

Graham left after that season, and Casteel has been the Mountaineers’ defensive coordinator and linebacker coach ever since, even through the head coaching transition to Dana Holgorsen before this season.

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