The problem I have with Rodriguez's defensive recruiting is simple. We have a total of 7 recruits from 2009 left on the roster. None of these recruits are corners or free safeties, two of our biggest problem areas. Considering that one of the biggest issues Rodriguez faced upon taking the job was defensive depth, particularly in the secondary, this is inexcusable. Now, it should be noted that he did recruit more than 7 defensive players in 2009, but there was forseeable attrition by that class which came back to bite us badly:
- Justin Turner allegedly had an attitude problem. This is something that you would hope his recruiter would pick up on.
- Adrian WItty failed to qualify academically. This is something that a coach should definitely be aware of when recruiting a position of need.
- Vladimir Emilien had a known injury history, meaning that he was also a risk.
On top of all of these, Rodriguez couldn't keep Warren from declaring for the Draft and then not even getting drafted. This one is arguably not his fault (in fact, that applies for all attrition), but at the same time, you need to keep some bodies at these positions and Warren was a big missed opportunity.
I wouldn't be mad about any of these if there were anything resembling adequate depth at their positions, but there wasn't. And Rodriguez knew that he was short bodies at these positions. He took steps to correct this in 2010, recruiting enough players s that we still had bodies at CB even if attrition did occur (which happened in the form of Demar Dorsey) but the damage was already done and we were forced to start true freshmen this year as a result. And we still have significant issues, as we have little in the form of depth behind Vinopal at FS.
Our primary justification for the problems with the 2009 defense was that the cupborad was left bare, particularly in the secondary. I accept this line of reasoning, but at the same time, I blame Rodriguez for failing to take adequate steps towards correcting this problem. There's a chance he just got unlucky, but when literally everything else is going wrong with the defense that you look to the coaches to correct (such as teaching the fundamentals, implementing schemes, etc.), I'm not much inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Now, with regard to player development, I will acknowledge that this is the least of Rodriguez's issues. My biggest problem was with Jay Hopson, who is now thankfully gone. However, it should be noted that Rodriguez hired Hopson, and thus is ultimately responsible for Hopson's failings. And this wasn't an isolated incident of a bad hire. Shafer didn't work out, I have questions about Dews considering how poorly our pass defense has performed, and Greg Robinson predictably failed, although the extent of his failure was mind-boggling. Getting back to the point, however, I'll concede that I was being harsh when I criticized the player development on defense alongside all the other issues.
Now, all that said, my ultimate feelings on Rodriguez with regards to the defense are simple. First of all, I don't believe that he had much to do with WVU's great defenses, as WVU keeps putting out great defenses with Casteel as DC, despite having Bill Stewart as head coach, coupled with the poor performance of our defenses these past three years. As such, I think that this means that it is critical for Rodriguez to hire good defensive coaches. He has repeatedly failed in this regard and there is little reason anymore to expect that he'll be successful when he tries to replace Robinson. As such, I'd rather take the risk of hiring a new coach.