MORGANTOWN. W.Va. — Joe DeForest takes his job as WVU special teams coach very seriously, and a primary facet of that job is convincing his players to take their roles just as seriously.

MetroNews file photo

Special teams coach Joe DeForest is looking to fill 88 two-deep spots on West Virginia’s punt, punt-return, kickoff and kick-return units.

“Let’s be honest—no one on this team wants to play special teams. Nobody,” DeForest said. “You’ve got to convince them that it’s an integral part of the game, and motivate them.”

To that end, he has been scrutinizing players for potential spots on what he dubbed “the big four” — West Virginia’s punt, punt-return, kickoff and kick-return units.

“With two-deep at each one, that’s 88 spots,” DeForest said. “What you have to do is evaluate guys during the special teams period, as well as on defense. We see how they move around and evaluate if they can play in space.”

But back to the convincing part.

It’s something at which DeForest succeeded during 11 years at Oklahoma State, when he coached two Lou Groza Award contenders (Dan Bailey won it in 2010 and Quinn Sharp was a finalist in 2011) and a Ray Guy Award-winning punter (Matt Fodge in 2008). He twice coached the Big 12′s special teams player of the year (Sharp in 2011 and Dez Bryant three years previous), and seven times one of his coverage or return units ranked among the nation’s top 10.

Sure, gunners occasionally slip down and punts take funny bounces around the goal line, but DeForest’s run of excellence at Oklahoma State can’t be explained by coincidence. The sample size is too broad.

“Let’s be honest—no one on this team wants to play special teams. Nobody. You’ve got to convince them that it’s an integral part of the game, and motivate them.” — Joe DeForest, WVU special teams coordinator

After one dreadful season as WVU’s defensive coordinator—a year that can be attributed to poor depth, myriad communication lapses and some overly ambitious installations that required simplification as the season dragged on—DeForest is back in his element.

The Mountaineers’ special teams weren’t anything special in 2012 under former assistant Steve Dunlap, ranking 28th in punt returns but only 92nd in kick returns and 110th in net punting.

Re-enter DeForest, who said he’s one of only 12 FBS college assistants focusing entirely on special teams. He’s taking the coordinator demotion in stride and aiming to make WVU’s special-teams units as effective as OSU’s were. Various statisticians contend that each yard of field position directly impacts a team’s odds of scoring. One NFL analysis revealed that a mere 4-yard advantage in average starting position could generate an additional 2.8 points per game, which would have come in handy for WVU against TCU and Oklahoma last season.)

So, yes, DeForest attaches great importance to the possession-change battle for even a few yards, much less the momentum-swinging charge of lengthy runbacks and blocked kicks. Throughout fall camp, he scoured the reserves in hopes of spotting capable, fresh bodies.

“My goal is to find a third-team safety and make him the best backside tight end on kickoff return in the country,” he said. “If we can motivate kids who aren’t starting offense or defense to find a role and relish in it and thrive in it, then we’ve accomplished what we want to get done.

“You would hope that after going through all that offseason conditioning work, they would seize their opportunity to get on the field.”

GIANT SHIELD
Reserve offensive tackle Michael Calicchio stands as a shining example of the commitment DeForest seeks. A 6-foot-9, 325-pound example to be precise.

The redshirt junior, a walk-on who left WVU for the Division II ranks before returning last year, has been deployed in the middle of the punt-protector shield. It’s a means for Calicchio to contribute, using his broad frame to stop defenders who bleed through the line.

“It’s important to him, because he’s not going to get a lot of reps on offensive line,” DeForest said. “So he takes pride in being a starter on punts.

“That’s what we’re looking for. You’re a third-team tackle. How can you contribute to this team? Be the best middle shield in the country.”

And if he can’t be the best, Calicchio might at least represent the biggest—a guy so enormous reporters wondered if  punters could kick over him.

“Hopefully,” DeForest dead-panned, “he won’t get knocked back.”

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Comments

  • WVUDAD

    Eagle the issue with the defense last year was COACHING, not talent. AND the reason last years season was viewed as a failure was the non existent offense in the middle of the year. No one was griping about the defense or lack of talent when we were winning the games 70-63, but if you noticed, the entire team got WORSE as the season wore on. Effective coaching makes EVERY player better in the course of the season. Blaming former coaches is a copout, Especially when said coach had the best record of any coach at WVU in 70 years.

    • Brad

      I think you and Eagle are both correct. There is plenty of blame to share. Hopefully all have learned from that and everyone takes accountability for their performances and improves. It may take a few games, but I feel they will.

  • big tom

    when I look at our coaching staff both in football and basketball, and look what each team did last yr. I almost throw up, realizing how man people of wv are out of work, can't send their kids to college, and can't properly feed their kids. where is this society going ....when huggins makes almost 10,000 dollars a day,, yes a day, and is dragging this team into the mud, I just have lost touch with reality ...
    when will huggins give back to wv, when will dana field a team capable of winning the big 12? ,,,I am just lost for words, and I hope all the fans reconsider their priorities.... this is just plain stupid,.l

    • Shawn

      Simple fix....stop watching and commenting on the EERS and we will never be upset with you.

      • big tom

        shawn , you little punk, take your meds and shut up

        • Shawn

          HAHA...getting a little frazzled are we? Hey if you plan on dishing it out then you might as well get used to taking it.

    • Mitch

      The sense of entitlement is strong in this one.

  • tw eagle

    WHEN a coaching staff has to start seven freshmen on one side of the ball , and these players make miscues , they can be forgiven for their inexperience . . .the real fault lies with the preceding coaching staff who left the proverbial cupboard befert of athletes . . .
    I say Patterson refused to take responsibility for what happened on the WVU defense last year . . .that deforest stepped up and took the hit for a unit that was ill prepared recruit wise to deal with the XII . . .

  • Bobby M

    I'm glad Joe is going TO get a chance to do what he DOES best! We havent had a great special teams unit for as long as I REMEMBER! Get it done JOE!

  • must go

    “Let’s be honest—no one on this team wants to play special teams. Nobody,”

    I call that B.S.
    I am sure there are plenty of boys on that team that would LOVE to be on the special teams.

    Sure, everyone wants to start on Deff or Off. But if that is not happening, any opportunity to get to play should be welcomed.

    They would be on the field, and get to play in a D1 game.

    • tw eagle

      roughly one third of a football team is made up of offensive linemen and defenders . . .the remainder are those that either want to throw the football or tiptoe down the sidelines and catch the football . . .none of the latter group will venture across the middle of the field for the football let alone put their body at risk on special teams . . .I don't coach because I won't put up with the "i'm special" crowd . . .
      what little is left of teamwork and unity is slowly eroding with each generation . . .

  • JOEYO

    I do have to question $500,000.00 for a special teams coach only.

    • Chet Ubetcha

      Agreed, he is also assistant head coach where he does a good deal of administrative stuff. He is also a major recruiter, so considering we would have to eat his contract and pay someone else might as well let him do some good before leaving 2015.

  • wvrefugee

    Lost ball in high weeds!! FAIL!

  • big tom

    for 500 grand a yr, deforest is a total bust.
    mainly dana's drinking buddy , and we the tax payers are having to fund this loser so he can party.

    what is oliver luck doing about this

    • BigZ

      Deforest can coach, but if the players aren't doing what they are coached, it's not Def's fault. Anyone knows you don't run backwards from the 8 yd line or call a fair catch on the 5. These guys shouldn't be playing special teams. It's not his fault they make bone-head plays like that.

    • Don

      Ah, Big Tom, the WVU football team is not funded by taxpayers (like Marshall's football team is).

    • wvrefugee

      Maybe Ollie will remove their bar stools at Novichenks....you know, the ones with their names above them!!!!! Dawson and Deforrest!! FAIL!

  • cutty77

    William do you get out on Work release,then your Mom lets you have a couple hours on a Computer. Brother you GOT ISSUES.

  • Shawn

    Every coach has their "thing" and special teams is his. In all honesty the guy didnt get a fair chance last year since the D was so young, playing in a new conference and learning a new scheme. He had the wrong assistants as well. Anyways...he should turn our sluggish special teams units around with no problem.

    • big tom

      anyways>>>>>>LOL,, what part of the sticks are you from

      • Shawn

        Tom you should change your name to Ultracrepidarian. It pretty much sums up everything about you.

        • big tom

          well , anyways..........

          • Shawn

            Yep...everyday you show how unintelligent you really are. Let's Go EERS!!!

  • chris

    Time will tell hes always been a good special teams coach he took on a defense that didn't have much depth to begin with and him being a first year def coordinator didn't mix very well. Special teams does well everyone will praise him.

  • Allan

    Well, well, well, William is back...missed you buddy. It's good to have someone so negative around, it gives an optimist like me feel so much better and that's all I'll say about that.
    Now, this is to all those young men who can't make first or second string....don't feel sorry for yourself! If special teams is your destiny, then be the best damn special teams player you can be because if you go back to games played the last 10 years or so and see why we lost some games, you will see it was due to special teams poor play...simple as that!

  • WVUfan07

    A good defense starts with good coaching. I agree with Williams post on the questioning of DeForests employment. I think we can all agree that DeForest is a horrible coach.

    • Mitch

      What does this article have to do with defense? He's coaching special teams, genius.

      • WVUfan07

        Mitch,

        Are you always this ugly to strangers? Perhaps I wanted to seize the opportunity to bash our defense? The defense and special teams are both a convoluted mess.

    • Brad

      There is a thin line between winning and losing, most of it mental. The boost that can be provided by a special teams win can turn games around. This is the area Joe has been successful in the past. Lets give him a chance, as he is on our team.

  • William

    Why does JOE DEFOREST still have a job with WVU football?

    • Bob

      William it is pretty simple, even you should understand it. Joe signed a 3 year contract with WVU back in Jan. of 2012. Fire him and WVU still has to buy out his contract; and then you have to pay someone to replace him.

    • bigd

      William, probably the same reason you MAY have a job. He needs the work.

    • chad

      Why do you still bother to post on this website?

    • Shawn

      I guess you guys saw his name and skipped down to the comment section. Try reading this and it explains why he still has a job.

      It’s something at which DeForest succeeded during 11 years at Oklahoma State, when he coached two Lou Groza Award contenders (Dan Bailey won it in 2010 and Quinn Sharp was a finalist in 2011) and a Ray Guy Award-winning punter (Matt Fodge in 2008). He twice coached the Big 12′s special teams player of the year (Sharp in 2011 and Dez Bryant three years previous), and seven times one of his coverage or return units ranked among the nation’s top 10.