WVU coach Dana Holgorsen’s second year as a head coach was a bitter disappointment after so many years as a highly successful offensive coach and coordinator. The overwhelming reason was a horrible Mountaineer defense.
Pundits, prognosticators and many fans wonder if anything will prevent a repeat this season. In my opinion, Coach Holgorsen’s biggest mistakes last year were in his choices of assistant coaches and their assigned responsibilities.
To Holgorsen’s credit, he appears to have no intentions of letting it happen again. With all the changes in coaches and in the players, WVU’s defense should be greatly improved for 2013.
The defensive scheme and philosophy of Coach Joe DeForest was too complicated for most of the players to master in one year. Two position coaches were replaced and another was moved to administrative duties at the end of the season.
I believe that indicates the problem was not simply an inexperienced defensive coordinator. Having 7 freshmen start at least one game also exascerbated the situation.
West Virginia was among three defenses in the Bowl Subdivision to allow more than 4,000 passing yards in the 2012 season. The Mountaineers 38 touchdown passes allowed were 2nd only to Colorado's 39,
The defense ranked near the bottom in almost every catagory, giving up a school record 495 points. The initial year of transition from a 3-3-5 to a 3-4 defense was a total disaster even the WVU offense couldn't overcome.
At the end of the 2012 season, Keith Patterson was appointed as defensive coordinator. So who is coach Patterson and what qualifications does he bring?
Coach Patterson played defensive back at East Central University in Oklahoma from 1982 – 1985. He then coached high school football in Texas and Oklahoma before being hired by Tulsa to coach linebackers.
Patterson spent 8 productive years as a linebacker coach and 5 years as co-defensive coordinator at Tulsa before becoming the defensive coordinator at Pitt for one year. Patterson’s defenses at Tulsa were very successful and ranked among the tops in conference USA.
During his one year stay as linebacker coach and defensive coordinator at Pitt, two defensive players ranked among the top 26 nationally for sacks. Pitt's head coach Todd Graham left Pitt between the end of his first season and a bowl game to become the head coach at Arizona State.
Patterson reportedly turned down a chance to follow Graham to ASU, instead assuming the role of interim head coach at Pitt for a bowl game. After the bowl game, Pitt hired University of Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst as head coach.
Finding himself in coaching limbo, Patterson defensive coordinator Arkansas State as where he spent less than two months before being hired by WVU as linebackers coach with the title of co-defensive coordinator.
Now given the task of revamping the Mountaineer defense, Coach Patterson gives an example of his philosophy to simplify the defense in an interview:
"The guys have heard me say it before: 70 percent of all big plays in Division I college football come because of misalignment or busted assignment," Patterson said. "Our whole philosophy is the faster we take the field, the more knowledge we can obtain from the sidelines."
Linebacker Isaiah Bruce added, "We can't have too many people getting out of position or trying to do too much or trying to do somebody else's job," he said. "Because on defense, we're reacting to what the offense does."
"So if you are out of position and they decide to go that way, that creates a touchdown. We just have to communicate and understand exactly what we have to do and just do our job and be more disciplined."
Senior defensive lineman Wille Clarke said, "A lot of us played together last year. It's easier to get back on the same page and take the new things that coach Patterson is bringing in with us."
In Coach Patterson's 3 – 4/4 – 3 defense everything starts with the base defense and for the players it is much more simple. There may be one adjustment signaled in if time allows, but it is basically an attacking defense with each player having a specific responsibilty.
Last year players tried to do too much to cover for other players inabilities, usually compounding problems. When you abandon your responsibility you open up an area that is easily exploited. Here's hoping the new system and position coaches make a difference. Simply.
Comments or debate welcome and appreciated!