Times West Virginian
The reconstruction of Dana Holgorsen’s defensive coaching staff was completed Wednesday when it was officially announced that Tony Gibson, who had spent seven years working with Rich Rodriguez at West Virginia University, had returned to the Mountaineers as safeties coach.
While the public is split over the return of a member of Rodriguez’s staff that walked out after losing to Pitt when a victory would have moved the Mountaineers into the national championship game against Ohio State in 2007, there can be no questioning of the logic of Holgorsen moving in this direction as he tries to rebuild the worst defense in WVU history from last year.
“Tony certainly has built a reputation as an outstanding recruiter and is nationally known for his ability,” Holgorsen said. “Being a native West Virginian and having already coached here at the university and successfully recruited western Pennsylvania for many years, he brings a familiarity that will be an asset to our program.”
Gibson, whose hiring was officially announced a day after the Mountaineers confirmed they had hired former East Carolina defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell to coach the cornerbacks, rejoins the Mountaineers new defensive coordinator, Keith Patterson, under whom he had worked at Pitt two years ago.
“He worked with Keith at Pitt two years ago, so he already is well-versed with his defensive philosophy so that should help make for a smooth transition,” Holgorsen said.
Gibson comes to West Virginia after serving as the assistant head coach, safeties coach and defensive special teams’ coordinator under Rodriguez at Arizona for the past year. The Wildcats finished 8-5 overall in 2012 and won the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. He was currently responsible securing 11 of the 24 commitments for Arizona.
“Being a West Virginia native, I am happy to be back in my home state. West Virginia football means a lot to me and my family,” Gibson said in a statement released by the school. “I am looking forward to working with Coach Holgorsen and being reunited on the defensive side of the ball with Coach Patterson. I also look forward to being a part of the future of this program and advancing what I helped start years ago.”
He spent the 2011 season as the secondary coach and pass defense coordinator at Pitt. The Panthers made their fourth straight bowl appearance, and two of Gibson’s pupils were named to Big East all-conference teams. He was responsible for recruiting Russell Shell to Pitt, the top running back in the nation.
Gibson served as assistant head coach and defensive backs coach at Michigan from 2008-10. He added special teams’ coordinator to his duties in 2010. During his time in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines earned a berth in the Gator Bowl in 2011 and one of his cornerbacks, Donovan Warren, earned first-team All-Big Ten honors. Gibson was responsible for securing the services of Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Denard Robinson, one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation.
He coached defensive backs under Rodriguez from 2001 to 2007 at West Virginia, and was recruiting coordinator his final season in Morgantown. The Mountaineers enjoyed one of their most successful periods on the gridiron, posting a 58-14 record in his final six years on staff and earning a then school record six straight bowl appearances, including two BCS bowl games.
Eight of his players earned all-Big East honors and six of his players were selected in the NFL Draft. His secondary standouts at WVU included first-team All-American Adam Jones, who has played with the Titans, Cowboys and Bengals during his eight-year NFL career.
The Mountaineers won or shared four Big East titles during Gibson’s time in Morgantown, capturing BCS bowl victories following the 2005 (Sugar Bowl) and 2007 (Fiesta Bowl) seasons. He recruited 32 players on the 2005 team that won the Big East Championship and Sugar Bowl, and secured 40 players who were on the 2007 Big East and Fiesta Bowl championship squad.
Gibson began his career at Glenville State under Rodriguez in 1996, coaching defensive backs and the kickoff teams.
In 1997 and ’98, Gibson worked at Cumberland (Tenn.) University, coordinating the program’s special teams and recruitment in addition to mentoring the team’s defensive backs. His career then carried him to West Virginia Tech, where he spent two seasons as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator (1999-2000), before arriving at West Virginia.
Gibson graduated from Glenville State in 1994. He was a defensive back from 1991-94 and was a part of two WVIAC championship teams.
The Van native began his coaching career at Gilmer County High School in Glenville in 1995, where he was head coach and interim athletic director.
He and his wife, Kerry, have two children, son Cody and daughter Ashton.