MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The departure of offensive line coach Ron Crook for Cincinnati leaves West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen with as much a philosophical decision as it does a vacancy.
Does Holgorsen stick with the dual-coach approach on the offensive line by hiring an interior assistant who allows Joe Wickline to maintain focus on tackles and tight ends? Or does West Virginia add a full-time quarterbacks coach, something it has lacked the past two years?
Crook’s decision to join the staff of new Bearcats coach Luke Fickell was reported by FootballScoop.com. Though neither school has publicly confirmed the move, a source told MetroNews an announcement is imminent.
Crook, a native of Parkersburg who graduated from West Liberty, declined comment Sunday as the American Football Coaches Association convened its four-day convention in Nashville.
His four-year body of work at West Virginia saw the offense turn more run-oriented, climbing from 82nd nationally in rushing during 2013 (148 yards per game) to 16th and 25th the past two seasons (each averaging 228 per game). That was part of the assurance Holgorsen gave when luring Crook from Stanford in February 2013.
The Mountaineers’ total offense rankings over Crook’s tenure also showed dramatic improvement after the quarterback shuffling mess of 2013 when WVU ranked 62nd at 411 yards per game. The subsequent three years’ FBS rankings — 12th in 2014 at 499 per game; 23rd in 2015 at 479 yards; 17th this past season at 485.5 yards.
Because of red zone struggles, the scoring numbers weren’t as pleasing — averaging 49th in the nation at 31.3 points per game — and only once did West Virginia rank higher than 85th in sacks allowed. The outlier on those sacks came this season when the Mountaineers finished 50th, allowing 1.92 per game.
Crook earned $300,000 annually at West Virginia under a contract scheduled to expire next month. All-Big 12 senior center Tyler Orlosky figures to become the second WVU lineman drafted under Crook, following fourth-rounder Mark Glowinski in 2014. A third offensive line starter, Quinton Spain, has spent two seasons with the Titans as an undrafted free agent.
This would be the second stint at Cincinnati for Crook, who worked as a graduate assistant for the Bearcats in 1993 under Tim Murphy, the same head coach who brought Crook to Harvard from 2003 to 2010.
The vacancy in Morgantown won’t necessarily be filled by an interior line coach, considering Wickline covered the complete lines during a lengthy career that included stops at Texas, Oklahoma State, Florida and Baylor. Though Wickline and Crook handled their joint-custody of the linemen with professionalism, it created a curious dynamic with regard to technique preferences and their varied coaching styles.
Turning over the line to Wickline would afford Holgorsen the flexibility to bring in a quarterback coach like he had in Jake Spavital (2011-2012) and Shannon Dawson (2013-2014).
Holgorsen, who remains the play-caller, has been more hands-on with quarterbacks the past two years, while utilizing graduate assistant Michael Burchett, who could be in line for the promotion.