WVU Adds Tony Washington to Staff

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WVU Adds Tony Washington to Staff

Less than two weeks ago, multiple outlets reported that West Virginia wide receiver coach and co-offensive coordinator Gerad Parker left to coach tight end at Notre Dame.  The departure, of course, left a gap on the Mountaineers’ staff. Head Coach Neal Brown and recently-hired offensive coordinator Graham Harrell looked to fill the position quickly. Pete Thamel first reported on February 10 that WVU adds Tony Washington to its staff as their new wide receiver coach. On Saturday, the Mountaineers confirmed the hire. We take a look at the hire here.

Tony Washington’s Background

Tony Washington most recently coached the wide receivers for two years at Coastal Carolina under Head Coach Jamey Chadwell. After just three years in the FBS ranks, the Chanticleers have taken college football by storm. In the last two seasons, Coastal Carolina posted a combined 22-3 record. Out of their speed triple-option base formation, the Chanticleers averaged 39 points per game during that time frame, well within the top fifteen in the nation. As we discuss later, the Chanticleer receivers played a pivotal role in that success.

Before that, Tony Washington rejoined Head Coach Scott Satterfield in his first year as Louisville’s headman. Washington contributed to the Cardinals as a grad assistant for the wide receivers. Immediately before that, Washington spent a season as the offensive quality control coordinator for wide receivers at East Carolina.

Washington played five years as a wide receiver for the other Mountaineers of Appalachian State. After red-shirting his first year, he played both the X and Y slots at wide receiver and become a steady contributor. In his senior season, Satterfield stepped in and Washington posted 939 yards and four touchdowns playing in his iteration of the spread offense.

Washington also spent three NFL seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars between 2014 and 2016. He signed with the Patriots for the 2017 season, but he was cut in September, thus ending his NFL days. During his days with the Jaguars, Washington spent time learning the ropes with the likes of Cecil Shorts, Allen Robinson, and Allen Hurns.

The Knocks Against the Hire

Before running through the positive things Washington has done in his time as a position coach, we wanted to summarize the potential criticisms of the hire. Some of the criticisms we have heard come simply from fan expectations. After making such a splash with the hire of Harrell and then losing a proven recruiter in Parker, fans expected WVU to make a similar splash here. Against those expectations, it is hard to say the hire of Washington is a conventional “splash.” This does not mean it is a bad hire (more on that below), but it is not what fans expected.

Washington does not yet have a long track record as either a recruiter or a position coach, and some fans have criticized the hire for that reason. At best, Washington brings four years of experience to the Mountaineer staff. For a critical room on the offensive side of the ball, fans expected more experience and a more proven track record.

Some fans and media thought the best move for West Virginia would be to bring back either a former coach or former player with ties and loyalties to West Virginia. Washington offers none of that. Washington carries no apparent ties to either Brown or Harrell. Again, this amounts more to a “disappointment” against expectations, but it does not make the hire bad.

What Washington Adds to WVU

As WVU adds Tony Washington to its staff, we think it makes sense to consider what Washington adds to WVU. Despite the relatively modest level of experience, we think Washington actually brings a lot to the staff and the team.

Increased Receiver Production

Indeed, Washington adds plenty to the Mountaineer staff. In his first season with the Coastal Carolina, the Chanticleers suffered a rash of injuries in the receiver room. Washington had to adapt by relying on wide-outs with minimal game experience. He did wonders with that room. Jaivon Heiligh represented the clear leader in the room. In his first two seasons, Heiligh totaled 60 receptions for 699 yards and five touchdowns. Under Washington’s tutelage, he simply shifted into another gear. In his two seasons under Washington, Heiligh amassed 131 receptions for over 2,100 yards and 17 touchdowns. In short, Heiligh increased his usage by nearly 220%, and he increase his yardage and touchdown output by threefold.

Meanwhile, Washington also brought three more receivers into the fray. Facing a room decimated by injury, Washington brought Kameron Brown, Samuel Denmark, and Greg Latushko along rapidly. Between the three of them, they combined for just three receptions, 72 yards, and one touchdown before the 2020 season. In 2020 alone, the three combined for 50 receptions, 805 yards, and six touchdowns. Brown continued to improve in his 2021 season, increasing his receptions from 20 in 2020 to 36 in 2021. He increased his yard total from 306 to 605, and he scored five touchdowns in 2021, nearly doubling his total from 2020.

Did we mention that the Chanticleers ran a triple-option base formation? Indeed, under Chadwell, Coastal Carolina threw the ball under 40% of the time. Those numbers are even more impressive considering the offense out of which they were produced.

More than Just Yards

Considering the run-pass distribution under Chadwell, one thing is abundantly clear: the Chantincleer receivers are not just good at running routes and catching balls. Take a look at this video in which Seth Varnadore breaks down the Chanticleer offense. We can see numerous examples of the wide-outs engaging on blocks. At the 5:34 mark, we see the quarterback electing to throw a short screen out of the option. Five yards ahead of the line of scrimmage, Denmark engages the safety and pushes him five yards up the field. Because the linebacker in front of him fell for the misdirection, the safety and cornerback are the two most-likely tacklers. Denmark’s block took one of them out of the play and added five to six yards to the gain.

Chanticleer game film abounds with many examples of this effort by the receivers. Additionally, those receivers operate as decoys plenty of times. Some wonder whether this causes deceptive stat lines by giving more room to the receivers when they do get the ball. Certainly, this happens sometimes. Every offensive scheme outside of power run formations look to get receivers open in space. The receivers still have to be where they are supposed to be, and Washington’s corps was.

These things are the fundamentals that make an offense work. Washington took his players and worked with them on the skills and expectations required of them in the offense, even though Washington himself did not learn under a triple-option base. This should speak volumes to his adaptability and his prowess for communicating and coaching his group based on the expectations of the offensive coordinator.

Recruiting History

While Washington, again, does not have a lengthy coaching history, he has certainly done some good things in the recruiting world. Indeed, despite his youth, Washington was recognized as one of the Top 35 coaches under 35 and attended leadership conferences for that exclusive group. His arrow points firmly up.

In recruiting, particularly, he has beat out some pretty big competition to add receivers to the Chanticleer roster. Taking a look at the Chanticleer’s most recent recruiting class, for example, shows that Washington actually beat the Mountaineers for two different wideout prospects. First, Washington landed four-star wide receiver De’Andre Coleman (per 247Sports’ internal rankings, which assigned him a grade of 90) out of Alabama.

Washington held offers from Florida State, Maryland, Penn State, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. WVU pursued Coleman, but he ultimately chose Coastal Carolina out of a final three that also included Florida State and Virginia. Out of the 181 recruits to commit to the Chanticleers that had profiles in the 247Sports database, Coleman ranks as the second highest-rated of all time.

Washington also landed three-star Rian Black out of Florida, and again beat out West Virginia, among other programs for Black’s commitment. Indeed, Black held offers from Arkansas, Miami, Mississippi State, Penn State, Pitt, and West Virginia, among others.

Not only has Washington shown prowess for recruiting, but he landed against some competition guys from Alabama and Florida. After losing Travis Trickett, WVU can use the help in the Southeast. We do not yet know what recruiting area Washington will be assigned to, but he has a history there.

WVU Adds Tony Washington

While it will take time to determine whether the hire of Tony Washington proves fruitful for the Mountaineers, his coaching history, albeit brief, fills the sheet with impressive wins, both on the field and in the recruiting world. We welcome him to Morgantown.