By Cam Huffman
Damon Cogdell is coming back to to West Virginia.
The former Mountaineer linebacker — who had 107 career tackles, three sacks and two pass breakups in two years with WVU in 1997 and 1998 — was announced Wednesday as a new defensive assistant on head coach Dana Holgorsen’s staff. Cogdell will fill the position created when defensive line coach Erik Slaughter’s contract was not renewed.
The official release from the university said that Holgorsen will “announce the staff assignments at a later time,” leaving the door open for more changes, despite a statement from athletic director Oliver Luck last month calling for continuity among the coaches.
Cogdell comes to WVU from Miramar High School in Florida, where he was the head football coach and director of athletics. Cogdell came to Miramar in 2002, first serving as the defensive coordinator before becoming the head coach in 2007. He compiled a 72-19 record and won the 2009 state championship.
“It’s exciting to welcome back a former Mountaineer to Morgantown,” said Holgorsen. “Damon Cogdell has been successful at every stage of his career from player to coach and has built one of the best high school football programs in the state of Florida. Now, as he takes his next coaching step to major college football, it’s certainly appropriate that he starts at his alma mater.”
Cogdell was extremely successful in sending players to the college level, sending more than 50 players into the college ranks. He didn’t forget his alma mater as Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey, Josh Taylor, Ivan McCartney and others made the journey from Miramar to Morgantown.
“I am so proud of my kids who came here and were successful, especially Geno and Stedman, who have accomplished so much” said Cogdell in the university’s release. “Getting to be there at the Orange Bowl two years ago and see all the guys perform on that high of a level was unbelievable.”
Although his time at Miramar earned Cogdell runner-up honors for the National High School Coach of the Year by the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in 2009, among other honors, he said he’s ready for the next step of his coaching journey.
“Coming back to West Virginia University is like a breath of fresh air,” he said. “Being here on the coaching staff is a dream come true. I had a great experience as a student-athlete, then I was able to go to Miami and build a highly competitive football program and won a bunch of games, was able to send eight players to play for the Mountaineers and now come full circle.
“Being here at West Virginia is like being at my home away from home. From the secretaries, to the graduate assistants, the staff, the assistant coaches and Dana, it’s one big family. I am looking forward to making a big contribution to the university and the football program. I can’t wait to get started.”
Although his official position has not been announced, Cogdell will surely be charged with continuing to help WVU recruit players from the fertile Florida area, a practice started by current Marshall coach Doc Holliday as an assistant under Don Nehlen in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Cogdell’s hire also continues the recent trend of bringing in assistants with knowledge of the WVU program. Lonnie Galloway (wide receivers), Ron Crook (offensive line), Tony Gibson (defensive backs) and Ja’Juan Seider (running backs), all hired prior to the 2013 season, all had a connection. Galloway coached at WVU under Bill Stewart, Crook is a state native, Gibson is a state native and a former assistant under Rich Rodriguez wile Seider is a former WVU player and graduate assistant.
Cogdell graduated from WVU in 1999 with a degree in physical education with an emphasis in sport management.
“He knows what it means to be a Mountaineer and what this program means to our state,” said Holgorsen. “I am excited to add him to our staff.”
Holgorsen, who is 21-17 in three seasons at WVU, has now worked with 18 different assistant coaches in his first job as a head coach. Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson is the only coach remaining from his original 2011 staff.
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Cogdell isn’t the only Floridian making a homecoming to the Mountain State. Andrew Buie, who was WVU’s top rusher in 2012, but left the school in August, has re-enrolled and plans on rejoining the team, according to multiple reports. Buie’s name is included in WVU’s online student directory.
The Jacksonville, Fla., native rushed for 851 yards as a sophomore in 2012, including a 207-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 48-45 road win at Texas.
— E-mail: chuffman
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.