MORGANTOWN - Much was made last year of West Virginia's inability to slow down an opponent's office, so much so that coach Dana Holgorsen switched defensive coordinators in preparation for the Pinstripe Bowl.
Keith Patterson had all spring and August training camp to finish installing what he started in the few days prior to the bowl game, and it's hoped that he can find that magic elixir that cures what ailed the Mountaineer defense.
"That's why he's been hired," Holgorsen said. "I went against him for four years. He's been here with us two years. So it's about six years straight that he's been preparing for an offense that is very similar to ours. If you look at what everyone is doing in the Big 12, it's very spread-oriented. It's very tempo-oriented, and there is obviously a lot of similarity in what we do and what everyone else in the Big 12 does."
Photo courtesy of West Virginia University
Will Clarke looks to help the West Virginia defense rebound this season
The key, Holgorsen noted, is disrupting the opponent's offensive tempo.
"How do you stop tempo?" he added. "You get lined up, it's the key. If you get lined up and get calls communicated in a very short time, it gives you a chance to be successful. I think he has a pretty good plan for it."
Senior safety Darwin Cook said the new defensive scheme seems to be a combination of the familiar 3-3-5 style played under Rich Rodriguez and Bill Stewart and a 3-4 set.
"We're taking the best parts out of both of the defenses and incorporating them and bringing them into one," he said. "I feel like they are doing a great job with it."
Fellow safety K.J. Dillon said the result has been some very high-tempo practices against the offense.
"We've just been going at it and competing with each other," Dillon said. "Everybody has been working with each other and trying to make each other better. The competition level is really high because we're all fighting to get on that field and make plays.
"Everybody is always on their 'A' game," he added. "They know that if they slip up, someone right behind them is going to be ready to fill in. Everybody is trying to get on the field, so once that competition steps up, everybody is going to bring their 'A' game."
Senior defensive lineman Will Clarke said it has been difficult to tell which unit has the upper hand.
"One group might start off well in the beginning, and the other group might take over toward the end," Clarke said. "It's pretty even right now. As a team, that's how you want it to be."