MORGANTOWN - Tony Gibson understands the challenges he will face as the newest defensive coordinator at West Virginia University.
Not only is the former Van High School standout taking over a unit that finished ninth in the 10-team Big 12 conference in total defense (455.0 ypg) and scoring defense (33.3 ppg), but will have at least three other coaches on the staff that have more defensive coordinator experience than he does.
"I think that it is really a good thing," Gibson said during WVU's spring football media luncheon. "You can always learn by mistakes, but with guys like Brian (Mitchell) and Joe (DeForest), guys who have both been there, I think I can learn a lot off of those guys."
Now add former Penn State defensive coordinator/interim head coach Tom Bradley to the mix.
Bradley, nicknamed "Scrap", has spent the last 33 years with the Nittany Lions. His defenses helped Penn State to 13 double-figure win seasons, 20 seasons with at least nine wins and 26 bowl appearances, including the 1982 and 1986 national championships.
"Tom (Bradley) brings numerous years of successful college coaching experience and versatility," WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. "He is an excellent defensive teacher, has high energy and intensity and gives us a proven recruiter with regional and national ties.
"I look forward to Tom joining the Mountaineer family, and I know he will work extremely well with Tony (Gibson), our defensive coordinator. The two have know each other for quite some time and share many of the same philosophies. We have put together a strong defensive staff under Tony's leadership."
But, exactly which part of the defense he will coach, will be designated at a later time. However, it should be noted that Bradley has extensive knowledge at six positions, including defensive ends, outside linebackers, defensive backs, special teams and as a recruiting coordinator.
All positive news for a Mountaineer fan base looking for anything to look forward to following a 2013 campaign that saw the team finish with a 4-8 mark.
"Right now, my goals are to get our guys lined up," said Gibson. "Obviously, communicate. Communicate the defense. Communicate the progressions. Everything that we need to do to get better. So, that's the number one goal right now.
"I want our guys to play fast and not think so much. I want to keep our schemes simple and let's run around and attack the football. And, have fun while we do it."
Fortunately, the tools, and depth, appear to be there for the Mountaineers to make a change for the better.
The linebacking corps, which will be under the tutelage of Gibson, looks the most prepared as it returns leading tackler Nick Kwiatkowski, who finished with 86 total tackles (54 solo), and third leading tackler Jared Barber, who finished with 71 stops despite suffering a knee injury in the Texas game that cost him the remainder of the season.
Also back will be Isaiah Bruce, Brandon Golson, Shaq Petteway, Jewone Snow, Wes Tonkery, Justin Arndt, Al-Rasheed Benton, Alex Brooks, Hodari Christian, Tanner Grose, Marvin Grose, Isaac McDonald, and Sean Walters. It also added Copiah-Lincoln Community College transfer Edward Muldow, who enrolled in January, Devonte James and Xavier Preston.
Up front, Gibson will have the services of returnees Kyle Rose, Eric Kinsey, Christian Brown, Trevor Demko, Dontrill Hyman, Noble Nwachukwu and Darrien Howard.
"When I coached the safeties, the spurs and bandits were linebackers," said Gibson. "Football is football. When you've been around it for 20 years like I have, if you can't go down and coach linebackers and all of that, then I'm in trouble."
The secondary also looks strong with the return of Karl Joseph and K.J. Dillon at safety and Ishmael Banks, Ricky Rumph, Terrell Chestnut, and Nana Kyeremeh at cornerback.
"All of those guys are smart guys and they have a lot of experience," said the coach. "And, you can't be afraid as a coach to ask questions. When coaches think they know everything, then that's when we get in trouble."