Gibson, who has 20 seasons of coaching, including 14 at the DI level, said the biggest aspect of him taking the coordinator role was "continuity and not making our kids learn a whole other defense, me being the fourth coordinator in four years. We've not had to change terminology, verbiage, so hopefully our kids will be able to pick it up and we will just keep on moving on."
Gibson, who returned to WVU after serving as the assistant head coach, safeties coach and defensive special teams' coordinator at Arizona during the 2012 season under former Mountaineer head coach Rich Rodriguez, has swapped the name of one position in an effort toward simplicity.
"We changed what we called our buck linebacker to will linebacker," Gibson said. "That's really the only difference. When we line-up, people aren't going to see anything new. You're going to see three down lineman, four linebackers and the four DBs. We are going to look the same. We are going to do some things a little different to make our scheme better, things that we were trying to get to in the middle of the year before injuries and we had to start over. The progression is there. We will put our own little twist on it, things we like and things we think our kids can execute."
West Virginia will maintain the majority of the verbiage, the play calls and the basic executions. There will be minute changes on all three sides of the ball, including a move to a left-right format for cornerback play as opposed to the field-boundary used under former coordinator Keith Patterson. That serves multiple purposes, among the foremost is that the coaches teach the same thing to both corners, and thus the depth increases as one isn't teaching one style to half and another style to half. Second, Gibson said, the speed of Big 12 play doesn't allow much time for players to flop to the wider or shorter sides of the field.
There will also be a coaching shift with Gibson moving from safeties to linebackers and Joe DeForest coaching the vacated safeties sot as well as his 2013 special teams coordinator role. Gibson's move was designed to make him more familiar with the front end of the 3-4 set.
"That was one of the things Dana (Holgorsen) and I discussed," Gibson said of the position move. "Dana said if you are going to understand it and call it, you need to be familiar with the front and the back. My experience all came in the back end. I have coached linebackers before at smaller schools, but to be involved and know and have a handle on it for the run and pass game, that is the best place I can be. I need to be there."
Gibson is widely known as a top shelf recruiter in western Pennsylvania. But his biggest get might be convincing longtime Penn State assistant Tom Bradley to return to coaching at West Virginia. Bradley, the Nittany Lions' defensive coordinator from 2000-2011, has 33 years of coaching experience, all at Penn State. PSU finished with 13 double-figure win seasons, 20 seasons with at least nine wins and 26 bowl appearances, including the 1982 and the 1996 national championships during his tensure. And he came to West Virginia for two primary reasons: the relationship he built recruiting against Gibson and the day he spent with Holgorsen for a look inside the West Virginia program and its direction in the future.
"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," said Bradley, who was named Senior Associate Head Coach. "I look forward to working with my friend to build a strong defensive unit at West Virginia."
The relationship will be symbiotic. While Gibson has an intimate knowledge of the current scheme, players and Big 12 landscape, mixed with a healthy dose of energy and enthusiasm, Bradley offers a calm, solid demeanor with among the top levels of experience in the profession. The two can feed off, and learn from, each other. Bradley's assignment has not yet been designated.
"Being in the role that I'm going to be in now, everybody talks about it coming quick, but this is my 20th year as a college football coach," Gibson said. "It's my 14th year at the Division I level. How much longer do you have to go, and how much more do you need to do to get your opportunity? The thing that I am grateful for, and will work for us to win, is Dana giving me the opportunity and not shying away from it and attacking it and saying hey, it's your deal, let's go get it done. For somebody to have that much confidence in my after just one year of working together, he's going to get the best that I have to offer."