Tom Bradley a Great Hire for West Virginia, but Tony Gibson Will Run the Defense

Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterFebruary 24, 2014

Penn State Interim head coach Tom Bradley, right, and Penn State assistant coach Jay Paterno during the first half of the TicketCity Bowl NCAA college football game, Monday, Jan. 2, 2012, at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Houston won 30-14. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
Brandon Wade/Associated Press

Former Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley was too good to stay out of coaching. Following a two-year absence, the long-time Nittany Lions assistant is back in the game. 

West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen announced on Friday that Bradley would be joining the Mountaineers' coaching staff—although not as a defensive coordinator. Instead, Bradley will assume the role of senior associate head coach. Bradley's other responsibilities have yet to be announced. 

Bradley has been an analyst for CBS Sports Network since 2012 after Bill O'Brien became Penn State's head coach. 

West Virginia's safeties coach since Tony Gibson was officially promoted to defensive coordinator, as Allan Taylor of West Virginia MetroNews first reported, and will oversee the linebackers.

New assistant Damon Cogdell will coach the defensive line and Joe DeForest will return to coaching safeties in addition to special teams.

Bradley said in a statement, per Taylor:

I am truly excited to join the West Virginia football program. I want to thank Coach Dana Holgorsen and Oliver Luck for this tremendous opportunity to contribute to the continued growth and success of the Mountaineer football program. Tony Gibson and I have recruited against each other in Pennsylvania for a lot of years, and it will be good to finally be on his side. I look forward to working with my friend to build a strong defensive unit at West Virginia.

Bringing Bradley aboard is a nice acquisition for Holgorsen, no matter the position. Bradley brings 33 years of coaching experience to West Virginia, all at Penn State, and was the Lions' defensive coordinator from 2000-11.

In seven of those years, Penn State finished in the top 20 nationally in both scoring and total defense, per WVU 

Those are the kind of statistical improvements the Mountaineers' defense desperately needs. Since joining the Big 12, West Virginia's defense hasn't finished higher than 99th in either scoring or total defense. 

Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

Bradley also provides a recruiting boost; he was named one of the top-10 recruiters in the country by Sports Illustrated in 2005. With his extensive ties to Pennsylvania and the surrounding area, West Virginia can continue to recruit close to home even in the Big 12. 

Bradley should have an immediate impact, but make no mistake, this is Gibson's defense.

By promoting from within, Holgorsen is putting an emphasis on continuity. That's been a major issue for the 'Eers over the past couple of years thanks to significant coaching turnover. 

If Bradley really wanted to be a defensive coordinator again—at West Virginia or elsewhere—he could have. His credentials are that good. Gibson's, meanwhile, are more scarce. Gibson served as the defensive passing game coordinator at Pitt in 2011 and was the DC at West Virginia Tech from 1999-00. 

Bradley isn't selling himself short, however. Coming aboard as an assistant is his choice and West Virginia's coaching staff is happy to have him. 

Now that the staff is complete, though, it's time to yield better results. It's likely too soon to label 2014 as a make-or-break year for Holgorsen, but it's a crucial year, nonetheless. 

Adding Bradley shows that Holgorsen knows just how quickly things need to change, too. After a disappointing 4-8 season, Holgorsen needs to get the program trending back in a positive direction. 

A key point of emphasis for that turnaround starts on defense. 


Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. All stats courtesy of unless noted otherwise.