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Official: Casteel hired; Rodriguez completes coaching staff

Jeff Casteel

Jeff Casteel

New Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez, having called defensive coordinator the most important position on his coaching staff, finally signed his No. 1 target.

It took longer than he had hoped — Rodriguez said soon after his hiring in late November that he wanted the staff complete by mid-December — but the news release announcing defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel landed Wednesday afternoon.

Arizona also announced the hiring of defensive backs coach David Lockwood, defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich and tight ends coach Spencer Leftwich, completing his nine-man coaching staff.

Casteel will meet with the local media Friday at 11 a.m., with the press conference streamed live on the athletic department’s website.

No contract terms were announced; Casteel had a multi-year deal at West Virginia that would have earned him $575,000 in 2013, but Arizona cannot offer assistant coaches multi-year contacts, athletic director Greg Byrne said.

Casteel, 49, will bring his unusual 3-3-5 stack defense to Arizona; he has had success with the scheme in nine seasons as the Mountaineers’ defensive coordinator, with four top 20 finishes in scoring defense.

Here is more background on the history of Rodriguez and Casteel … and here is a chart of how his defenses ranked at West Virginia, with yards per game and points per game:

Year Total def. Rank. Scoring def. Rank
2003 391.3 74 22.8 44
2004 339.3 37 20.5 28
2005 310.8 15 17.8 13
2006 336.6 62 21.7 49
2007 301.7 7 18.1 8
2008 328.9 36 17.0 11
2009 336.5 36 21.7 31
2010 261.1 3 13.5 3
2011 348.2 33 26.8 61

The official release from the UA sports information office:

TUCSON, Ariz.–Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez completed his football coaching staff today with the appointment of Jeff Casteel to defensive coordinator, David Lockwood as a defensive backs coach, Bill Kirelawich as defensive line coach and Spencer Leftwich as tight ends coach.

Casteel, Lockwood and Kirelawich come from similar posts at West Virginia University and Leftwich joins Rodriguez’s staff from the offensive line position at Pittsburgh. Casteel and Kirelawich worked under Rodriguez during his tenure as head coach at WVU.

“We are very excited to have Jeff, David, Bill and Spencer, and their families, join our family here at the University of Arizona. They are not only great coaches, but great people who bring a lot of quality experience and knowledge to our staff,” Rodriguez said.

Casteel has been defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at West Virginia since 2003 and spent the season before that in Morgantown as co-coordinator. He worked with the defensive line at WVU in 2001 and as defensive ends coach at UTEP in 2000.

He was Rivals’ defensive coordinator of the year in 2010 when WVU finished third in the nation in total defense, second in rushing defense, third in scoring defense and second in sacks per game. His 2007 unit also posted top 10 marks at No. 7 in total defense and No. 8 in scoring defense.

West Virginia finished in the nation’s top 15 in total defense three of the last seven years and four of those years checked in with a top 15 scoring defense figure.

Casteel began his coaching career at California University in Pennsylvania as a graduate assistant from 1984-86, and then coached the defensive line at Palmetto High School in Miami, Fla., for a year. He was the defensive line and strength coach at Shepherd University in Sheperdstown, W. Va., in 1989 and 1990 and assistant head coach and defensive coordinator from 1991 to 1999 at Shepherd before moving to Division I football at UTEP.

He has 28 years of coaching experience and was 2008 Big East coordinator of the year, among other accolades. He has coached in 11 bowl games. Shepherd teams won West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles six times while he was assistant head coach. He’s been part of a WVU staff that has led the Mountaineers to an average of 10 victories per season in the last six years, two of those under Rodriguez.

Lockwood will coach cornerbacks at UA, his position assignment at WVU for the past four seasons. Prior to that he was Kentucky defensive backs coach in 2007, Minnesota’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in 2005-06 and Minnesota’s secondary coach from 2002-04.

He coached cornerbacks at Notre Dame in 2001, defensive backs at West Virginia in 2000 and defensive backs at Memphis in 1999. He coached wide receivers at Memphis from 1995-98, tight ends and receivers at James Madison in 1994, and tight ends and receivers at Delaware from 1990-93.

He began his career as a graduate assistant on the 1989 West Virginia team that Rodriguez served as a volunteer assistant the year before the latter began his head coaching career.

Kirelawich (pronounced Kerr-LAV-itch) has coached at West Virginia since 1979 when he spent a year as a part-time assistant. He coached the defensive line from 1980-87, outside linebackers from 1988-90, the line again from 1991 to 2000, was an administrative assistant in 2001-02 and has coached the line for the past nine years.

He started his coaching career with a nine-year stint as head coach at Cardinal Brennan, Pa., High School from 1970-78 after graduating from Salem University in 1969. He helped the 1996 Mountaineer defense finish ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense, No. 2 in rushing defense and turnover margin and No. 4 in scoring defense.

Kirelawich was 2010 FootballScoop defensive line coach of the Year.

Leftwich spent the 2011 season as offensive line coach at Pitt but has roots in the Southwest. He was the offensive line coach at Tulsa in 2010 and from 2003-06, line coach at North Texas from 2007-09 and 1994-2002, line coach at New Mexico State from 1992-93 and line coach at Stephen F. Austin from 1989-91.

A native of Gainesville, Tex., he graduated from SFA in 1988, where he was a three-year starting lineman. He also holds a 1989 master’s degree from East Texas State.

He helped the 2010 Tulsa squad rank fifth nationally in total offense, while his Mean Green front at UNT improved 100 ranking slots in pass protection in three years, while rushing for 2,233 yards his final season in 2009.

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