By Dave Ackermann
Nobody knew in 2013, when Tony Gibson joined the Dana Holgorsen defensive staff as a safeties coach, what would occur only 1 year later in 2014. That is when Dana elevated Gibson to Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator. Some were shocked, but those that new Tony Gibson were not shocked at all.
Gibson started his coaching career fresh out of Glenville State College where he played defensive back; he accepted a position at Gilmer County High School in West Virginia as Head Coach and Interim AD. He rose to Division II level the following year returning to his Alma Mater as Defensive Backs Coach. In 1997 he accepted the same position at Cumberland University and after a two year stint, joined WV Tech staff as Defensive Coordinator.in 1999.
Joining the staff of Rich Rodriguez at WVU in 2001 as Defensive Backs Coach, he toiled under Jeff Casteel (Defensive Coordinator) who installed the 3-3-5 stack defense. Gibson was best known at that time for his recruiting of Western PA and the WPIAL schools head to head with the Pitt Program. In fact, he was so good at recruiting Rodriguez elevated hime to Recruiting Coordinator in 2007. During his first stint at WVU, eight of his players earned All Big East honors and six of his players were selected in the NFL draft including 1st team All American Adam “Pacman”Jones. During this tenure, WVU captured the 2005 Sugar Bowl, the 2006 Gator Bowl and the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
Gibson moved onto Michigan with Rodriguez and Casteel in 2008 and as we all know, that lasted only three years, Gibson then joined Rodriguez in 2012 after spending a year on the Pitt staff in 2011. During his time at Michigan he had Donovan Warren named All Big Ten CB and was responsible for recruiting Denard Robinson, a top dual threat quarterback in the nation. Even during his one year stint at Pitt he had two players named to the All Big East team.
In his 15 years coaching at the Division 1 level, Tony has seen 11 of those 15 teams go to Bowl games including 4 Gator Bowls, a Sugar Bowl and a Fiesta Bowl.
His second stint at WVU has been anything but fleeting as 4 of his defensive players were chosen in the 2016 NFL Draft: Karl Joseph, S (First Round) Daryl Worley, CB (third round), Nick Kwiatkoski, LB (fourth round) and K J Dillon, S (fifth round).
In 2014 the WVU defense was nationally ranked in several categories:3rd down defense (9th), 4th down defense (12th), highest % of opponents 3 and outs (15th) and passing efficiency defense (28th).
In 2015 the WVU defense was again ranked nationally in interceptions (2nd) and turnovers gained (5th) and again in highest % of opponents 3 and outs (8th) as well as 11th in third down defense and 15th in turnover margin. That factored also in the Big 12 where the defense was #1 in rushing defense, interceptions, opponent first down defense and 2nd in scoring defense, total defense and opponent 3rd down defense.
Needless to say, we can expect more accolades from Gibson’s WVU defense based on performance in the first seven games this season versus the likes of BYU, Missouri and conference foes all. Remember 17 of the 37 points given up to OSU were off of turnovers by the WVU offense that resulted in very short fields. Some of BYU’s 32 points (10) were of the same ilk. In fact, over 7 games, if the 27 points opponents scored over turnovers is deducted, the defense is allowing an average of 17 points per game.
Yes, its not the first time WVU fans have seen the 3-3-5 stack defense, but, its the first time said defense has been “Gibsonized”. In losing 8 starters and then for a second straight season, our best safety and leader on the defense, one would assume a down year for the defense with so many to replace, especially in the secondary. But low and behold, the defense has shined and the secondary by committee has worked well. Bringing back Bruce Tall to work with the defensive line and hiring Blue Adams, new Corner Backs Coach (late of the NFL), and Matt Caponi (Safeties) have proven to be great hires by our coordinator. So much that the losses from the defensive staff are simply distant memories.
With Kansas in the forefront this week, some high scoring offenses still loom on the future schedule including a road game at Texas and two home contests versus Oklahoma and Baylor. Needless to say, the WVU defense will have to continue to “Gibsonize” these behemoths if the season is to be considered successful.