Rich Rodriguez coached against Jeff Casteel for much of the 1990s. Rodriguez then hired Casteel to work with him at West Virginia through most of the next decade.
Now, they will be reunited in a new adventure in Tucson.
Rodriguez, the new Arizona Wildcats head coach, will hire Casteel to be his defensive coordinator — waiting for the official announcement this afternoon — just as it was for five seasons at West Virginia.
As the head coach at Division II Glenville State from 1990 to 1996, Rodriguez used to unleash his read-option offense against conference rival Shepherd, where Casteel coached for 12 years. He was the defensive coordinator from 1991 to 1999.
“We played against him and I always had a lot of respect for him and how his team played,” Casteel said in a 2001 interview with the Charleston Daily Mail.
Rodriguez lost his first three games against Shepherd, but won his final four.
Casteel coached defensive ends at UTEP in 2000 before Rodriguez brought him in to coach the defensive line on his first staff at West Virginia. Casteel was promoted to co-defensive coordinator (with new Arizona State head coach Todd Graham) in 2002 and became the full-time coordinator in 2003 when Graham left.
It was in the 2002 season, after an offseason trip to study Wake Forest, that Casteel would deploy the unusual 3-3-5 stack defense that has become his signature. The origins of the scheme — emphasizing speed, flexibility and disguise with two roving safeties — are traced to the mid-1990s, starting with Mississippi State coordinator Joe Lee Dunn and later with South Carolina’s Charlie Strong.
Casteel didn’t create the defense, but he has become its greatest practitioner.
“I think there’s more made out of this defense because nobody plays it on a full-time basis,” Casteel said in a 2009 interview with the Dominion Post of Morgantown, W.Va. “A lot of people run it as third down package or sub-package but we’re one of the only teams that run it full time.
“How many people are you going to talk to about the [more common] 4-3 defense? Just because [the 3-3-5] is a defense that you haven’t really heard a whole lot about, it intrigues people. But more gets made out of it than what it is.”
Rodriguez has a high level of confidence in the defense, unsuccessfully trying to run it at Michigan from 2008 to 2010, when Casteel stayed at West Virginia.
But Rodriguez has compiled most of the old gang with his first coaching staff at Arizona. Six of the nine assistants from his final West Virginia coaching staff in 2007 are Wildcats:
Casteel, co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Calvin Magee, co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Rod Smith, receivers coach Tony Dews, defensive backs coach Tony Gibson and defensive line Bill Kirelawich.
In addition, cornerbacks coach David Lockwood was at West Virginia for the past three years with Casteel and was a grad assistant for the Mountaineers in 1989, when Rodriguez was a volunteer coach. New tight ends coach Spencer Leftwich was at Pitt last season with Magee, Dews and Gibson.
The only true “outsider” is offensive line coach Robert Anae, who was retained from the previous Arizona coaching staff.