FOOTBALL: Elson adds two new staff, promotes Taggart

J. Michael Moore

David Elson finished one last piece of business yesterday before starting off spring football practice.

Elson, who was named Hilltopper head football coach March 5, added two new assistant coaches to the defending national champions’ roster.

Mike Dietzel and Walter Wells are newcomers to the staff. Elson also announced several changes and promotions within the 11-man group while keeping the continuity of championship success.

Willie Taggart, the new longest-tenured aid on the staff, was elevated to associate head coach.

Before leaving briefly for West Virginia, Elson was the longest-tenured assistant.

Taggart will still work with the team’s quarterbacks.

“He’s going to be a lot of the things that I did with Coach Harbaugh and be a sounding board for me,” Elson said. “I don’t think there’s any one who has a better feel for this program and the players at this program than Willie does because he was one of them.”

The Hilltopper offense will fall under the control of second-year assistant T.J. Weist. He becomes offensive coordinator after coaching wide receivers last season.

Don Martindale will take over for Elson at defensive coordinator while continuing to coach inside linebackers.

Dietzel will coach defensive backs and special teams on the Hill. He spent the last two seasons as defensive coordinator at Kent State.

Dietzel has also spent time with the United States Military Academy, coaching running backs for the Cadets from 1995-99.

He has also coached at Michigan (1989-90) and Colorado (1985-86).

“He’s been around a lot of really good people in this profession,” Elson said “It’s rubbed off on him. He’s really got a lot of knowledge and he knows how to communicate it.”

Elson said Dietzel has great knowledge and recruiting ability at a Division-I level.

Wells brings experience from the opposite side of the state, spending the last six seasons at rival Eastern Kentucky.

He will be the Hilltoppers new offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator.

Elson said the Eastern connection will be a positive one, both from the the rivalry and recruiting perspective.

“I’ve known Walter for five or six years now, just going against him and seeing him out on the road recruiting,” Elson said. “He understands that rivalry and that’s going to be a big part of what we do in that game each year.”

He added that Wells knows several high school coaches across the state and will be an integral part in recruiting Western’s, “own back yard.”

Wells’ experience in a successful balanced offense could also pay dividends for Western.

Several other current Hilltopper assistants were shuffled in the coaching change.

Dan Haley will take over as outside linebacker coach while Bryan Cross, a four-year assistant at Western, will take over as tight ends coach. Joe Guinane will coach running backs.

“The biggest thing was the continuity with all these guys that are still here and been through a national championship season together,” Elson said. “That’s exciting that they wanted to still be here and we’re able to stay together. I think the most important thing when putting a staff together is chemistry.”

Spring practice will kick-off at 7:30 tonight in L.T. Smith Stadium. The first practice in full pads will be at 1:30 Saturday afternoon.

Reach J. Michael Moore at [email protected]