WVU's defense embraces change with new coordinator
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — While West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen attempted to put a positive spin on the shift in power at defensive coordinator, junior defensive end Will Clarke embraced the change.
Keith Patterson's promotion and Joe DeForest's demotion already has made an impact, said Clarke, a starter from Allderdice.
“We have been improving,” Clarke said.
Holgorsen said this week that Patterson is the new defensive coordinator with play-calling responsibilities, while DeForest will retain his position as co-defensive coordinator.
“Instead of having two guys sharing that responsibility, I think it is important for one guy to take the lead,” Holgorsen said.
The change took place prior to WVU's 39-38 overtime loss to TCU on Nov. 3. The coaches switched their locations for that game, with Patterson moving to the sideline and DeForest working from the press box for the first time in his career.
“Coach Patterson showed a lot of emphasis on small things like taking the field like we own it, being more united as a defense and playing with a purpose and a focus,'' Clarke said. “That's something we started with the TCU game and tried to carry it over to the end of the season. We're going to try to carry that over to the bowl game.”
WVU (7-5) faces former Big East foe Syracuse (7-5) in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29 at Yankee Stadium.
In that game, the Mountaineers will feature a defense that ranks No. 107 out of 120 FBS teams but allowed an average of only 17 points over the final two games.
During their previous seven games, the Mountaineers yielded fewer than 40 points only once.
“Keith Patterson has been doing a fantastic job,” Holgorsen said. “He is a great defensive coordinator and has been for some time.
“Joe DeForest is very valuable to our coaching staff and to our football program. He brings a bunch of experience from a recruiting standpoint, from a special teams standpoint, from an associate head coach standpoint and from a next guy in charge standpoint and that will continue.”
Holgorsen said he felt good regarding the unit's direction.
“There is no sense in pushing the pause button when you know you are going to do something at the end of the season,” Holgorsen said. “We have made progress with what the future is going to be and what the vision of the defense is going to look like.”
Patterson, who was Pitt's defensive coordinator in 2011, said he will retain the 3-4 alignment favored by DeForest but will emphasize a variety of looks.
“There will be different concepts. I have been shaped and molded by different people,” Patterson said. “I've got to coach to my style. We can't make wholesale changes, but I think you'll see some differences.”
Patterson, who called his promotion an “extraordinary opportunity,” said some of those changes will be unveiled in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Clarke, for one, can't wait.
“Results always help the situation — either positive or negative results,” Clarke said. “It shows if what you did is working or if you need to go back to the drawing board even more.”
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.