Former NFL cornerback takes on challenge with Mountaineers

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The first of three additions to Dana Holgorsen's staff at West Virginia was made official Tuesday morning when Brian Mitchell, a former NFL cornerback who spent the past three years coaching at East Carolina, was officially brought aboard.

Mitchell, who will coach the cornerbacks, was praised by Holgorsen as an aggressive recruiter and a teacher that can develop young talent.

"Brian is an excellent addition to the West Virginia football staff and has a wealth of experience as a cornerbacks coach," said Holgorsen in a statement. "He brings a lot of energy, is an aggressive recruiter, and I have seen him develop young players into great players. He is an outstanding coach and even better person, and I look forward to him joining our program."

The university is in the process of vetting two other hires. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette previously has reported that Holgorsen wants to hire Tony Gibson, a longtime assistant of former West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez, and Lonnie Galloway, who served on the coaching staff of the late Bill Stewart as receivers coach.

Both hires are expected to be officially announced soon.

Mitchell, 44, was fired earlier this month after his time at East Carolina.

He will be tasked with improving a group of cornerbacks that struggled against the prolific passing offenses of the Big 12 Conference this past season.

"It's a natural fit for me, coaching cornerbacks, because I played the position at all three levels -- in high school, college and in the NFL," Mitchell said in a statement. "I was fortunate enough to play in the NFL with some very dominant football players such as Deion Sanders. I was able to learn, absorb, see, hear and put together and formulate a plan to help young men be very successful at the NCAA Division I level at the cornerback position."

As the defensive coordinator at East Carolina, Mitchell helped reshape the team's defense by implementing a 3-4 scheme in 2011, which is what West Virginia runs. After that transition, the team jumped 64 spots in the total defense rankings, allowing 102.5 fewer yards per game.

Mitchell and Holgorsen first met when both were on Mike Leach's coaching staff at Texas Tech. Mitchell worked with Leach from 2006-09 as cornerbacks coach, spending two years there with Holgorsen, who left the staff in 2008 for Houston.

The Red Raiders pass defense was the best in the Big 12 in 2006 and 2007, limiting opponents to fewer than 200 yards per game.

To get that kind of production out of West Virginia will be a tall order, as the team's pass defense ranked last in Division I for much of the season.

Mitchell played for Brigham Young University before he was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the seventh round in 1991. He played three seasons in the NFL with Atlanta and the Dallas Cowboys.

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