Smith: WVU is 'a great fit'

Smith: WVU is 'a great fit'

West Virginia's newest assistant coach is intimately familiar with the New York Jets' style of defense. So when Mike Smith says the Mountaineers plan to mimic that style themselves, it's likely more than just lip service.

"We're going to move around. We're going to stem," Smith said Wednesday from the Jets' facilities, where he worked for two seasons as a defensive intern under Rex Ryan. "We're going to show different coverages. We're going to disguise. We're going to play with good fundamentals and techniques. That's kind of who we are.

"I understand in college, you can't run the New York Jets defense, the entire package. But you can run that style of defense, the way we teach it and play it, you know."

Contrary to popular belief, that doesn't mean WVU will line up purely in a 3-4, Smith emphasized. The Jets are capable of playing with three or four down linemen on any given play, and that trend may continue in Morgantown.

If the former Texas Tech linebacker (who played at that school under Mike Leach when Dana Holgorsen was an assistant there) sounds like he is speaking on the Mountaineers' plans authoritatively, it may be with good reason.

Smith confirmed that he and Holgorsen have discussed the possibility of Smith at least sharing the duties of a defensive coordinator.

"Dana told me some things, but that's something I want to get clear," Smith said, declining to verify a report from the New York Daily News that he will serve as a co-coordinator.

"We still have to know who's coaching what positions with some guys that are coming, some guys we're going to bring in and interview. That's something we've still got to work on, but I just know that I'm going to be at West Virginia."

But not just yet.

Smith was still working at the New York Jets' facilities on Wednesday, wrapping up the last two days of his duties there (he is busily grading free agent outside linebackers to help the team through its offseason) before coming to Morgantown on Friday.

Once at WVU, Smith will formally reunite with Holgorsen, who he said he "immediately hit it off with" when he came to Texas Tech as a player for Leach and Holgorsen's first season there.

Smith said the chance to work with West Virginia's head coach -- someone he called "an extremely loyal person" -- was a significant factor in his decision to eschew opportunities to be a full-time coach either for the Jets (where he said he signed a contract two weeks ago to accept the formal title of outside linebackers coach) or under Leach at Washington State to come to Morgantown instead.

"I was really excited, because he's such a good friend," Smith said. "The thing with Dana was, ‘Don't hire me because I'm your friend. Hire me because I'm a good coach.' We made that clear.

"We have a close relationship, but that's not why he's hiring me. He's hiring me because he knows what I bring to the table, knows the system I've been a part of playing and coaching for the last six, seven years. And he knows how hard I work. There won't be a coach in the office that puts in as much time as I will. I have passion for this game. I love it. Being from west Texas and being raised in it, football is really all I know."

The opportunity to come to WVU came about rather quickly, according to Smith. Holgorsen called him and invited him to visit Morgantown this past weekend.

The experience left an impression.

"Being from west Texas and a country guy, I loved the town. I mean, we drove around, saw the big lake everybody lives around, the town -- everything was me. We looked at the facility, and it's a great football facility. And then there's the tradition at West Virginia. They're a good football team. It's not like you're going to some second-tier college. You're going to a good football program, and one where they've been pretty good on defense."

It will be the job of Smith and Joe DeForest (the only two confirmed hires on WVU's rebuilt defensive staff), among others, to follow through that reputation.

Smith was coveted by the Jets' Ryan and Washington State's Leach because of his knowledge as a linebackers coach. Indeed, in New York, Smith said outside linebackers "was my position. I had my room, my meetings."

"That's the thing with the NFL, like it is for college -- there's limited roles for how many people they can hire. [Interning] was a way to get my foot in the door. But I've been coaching those guys for a while now, and the thing with Mike Leach kind of pushed it up. [The Jets] didn't want me to go, so they gave me the official title."

But this time, Smith will go. And almost as soon as he gets to Morgantown, he will quickly turn around and hit the recruiting trail, trying to help WVU finish its class as the first day of the national Letter of Intent signing period looms near.

It will be the first time Smith ever has worked as a recruiter.

"If you've got good people skills and a good knowledge of football, you'll be fine," he said, pointing to the fact that he majored in communications at Texas Tech.

"I don't have a problem of getting in front of kids and starting to talk. That's my personality. That's one of the reasons I think me and Rex get along: I have an outgoing personality. You can tell we have passion for the game, and Dana is the same way. We're kind of from the same breed, you know?"

"I just felt like it was a great fit."

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