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February 26, 2014

Timing right for Cogdell




Things happened quickly between new West Virginia defensive line coach Damon Cogdell and his alma mater, so quickly in fact that he still hasn't had the opportunity to clean out his office at Miramar High School.

West Virginia contacted Cogdell about the opening and the timing was right with his daughter graduating high school and him having put together an accomplished career as a high school football coach. So, he took the offer and off to Morgantown he went.

It's been fifteen years since new Cogdell last lived in Morgantown. He graduated with a physical education degree from WVU while starring at linebacker for the Mountaineers in 1997 and 1998.

After playing a few seasons in the Canadian Football League, Cogdell moved onto become one of the top high school football coaches in state of Florida at Miramar High.

But while Cogdell has been away from the mountain state and watching his former players like Geno Smith star for WVU, the city of Morgantown has grown.

"The outskirts of town are different especially what they built up at the top of the hill near Kroger. There's different apartments, and wow, the cost of living here is different," said Cogdell. "When I was here I could get a one or two bedroom apartment for like $400. To get a two bedroom now it's close to $1000."

Paying for his apartment isn't a worry for Cogdell, he is extremely excited about returning to alma mater to coach under Dana Holgorsen. Having been offered jobs within the college ranks before, Cogdell always turned down offers either to stay at home with his family.

But when Holgorsen and WVU Director of Football Operations, Alex Hammond called to offer him a position on staff, Cogdell couldn't refuse.

"I was excited. I said yes and then after the fact, when I got here, is when I got a little cold feet," Cogdell admitted, "I knew I wouldn't see my family for one or two months, even after I signed I had a little cold feet. But I realized I'd be able to see them a little bit while recruiting south Florida."

In addition to his defensive line duties, Cogdell is expected to recruit south Florida alongside running backs coach JaJuan Seider. Having the one-two punch of good recruiters that know the area like they do should pay dividends for West Virginia.

"We're the new Bad Boys of South Florida. We're Martin Lawrence and Will Smith," Seider joked.

Cogdell knows bringing talent to WVU will be just as important as coaching up the defensive line. The problem is as many great players as WVU has pulled from Florida in the past, kids growing up there don't see it as they see SEC schools or the big name instate programs.

The former three-time Florida High School State Championship coach wants to change that.

"When you have Tennessee, Florida, Florida State, Miami and you see West Virginia, its not the same. Its something JaJuan and I are trying to change because at the end of the day those names aren't different," Cogdell explained. "Morgantown, West Virginia and Gainesville, Florida are identical. There's a lot money in Morgantown now, so its time to excel and sell that."

He feels that if he can convince kids to come visit Morgantown they will see that, just as some of his Miramar players did.

"I had Geno up here as a freshman, same with Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney. All those guys went to camps here. It gave them all a sense of security to come to Morgantown," said Cogdell.

Once Cogdell gets kids on campus he has two simple goals as a position coach.

"My guys will either graduate or go to the NFL," said Cogdell.

Right now, Cogdell is getting to know the guys he has on the defensive line. He has started to build relationships with Kyle Rose, Dontrill Hyman and Christian Brown, the expected starters upfront.

One of the biggest differences between being a position coach in college and the overseer or Head Coach at Miramar is that he has the luxury of spending lots of time with just a few players.

"I was the head coach and the athletic director, now I'm a position coach," said Cogdell. "All I have to worry about is the six or eight defensive linemen that I have. Back at Miramar I had to worry about girls basketball, boys basketball, the track team, all the parents, the kids, so just to be able to focus on those guys makes my job a little easier."

Cogdell and West Virginia open up spring ball on March 2.


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