By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen, finally fed up enough with the play of his defense, appears to be on the verge of announcing more changes on his defensive staff.
The most important in a reshuffling of coaching personnel that comes about in the wake of the dismissal of cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts will be to strip the beleaguered Joe DeForest of his title as defensive coordinator and put Keith Patterson in charge.
Patterson, a former defensive coordinator at Pitt in 2011 under Todd Graham, would drop his co-defensive coordinator title, which would go to DeForest.
The move has been confirmed by sources and been publicly reported, first by the Big Ten Network.
West Virginia’s defensive woes of this season, especially in the passing game, which comes first in the Big 12, have been well documented over a disappointing first season in that league. The Mountaineers were 109th in the nation in total defense out of 120 teams and 119th in pass defense.
The result was despite a season which included the record-shattering trio of quarterback Geno Smith, second-team Associated Press All-America wide receiver Stedman Bailey and first team AP All-America all-purpose player Tavon Smith, WVU had to struggle to finish 7-5.
That earned the Mountaineers a non-prestigious bowl invitation from the Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium, where they will face another 7-5 team in Syracuse of the Big East.
The move is hardly unexpected, although it doesn’t go quite as far as many Mountaineer fans had anticipated.
Holgorsen has a decade-long history with DeForest, who came to WVU after serving as special teams coordinator and safeties coach at Oklahoma State. That, perhaps, was why he gave him so much rope during this trying season.
It was obvious by midseason this was not working. In an effort to try to save the year, Holgorsen took DeForest off the field and put him in the press box to call his defenses, moving Patterson down onto the field.
“I just felt like we needed a change. I thought it would help Joe to be in a sterile environment,” Holgorsen said at the time. “There are a lot of bullets flying on the sidelines, and there is a lot of stuff going on.”
DeForest said it worked following the move.
“There’s no emotion involved; there are no distractions. This is the game plan we had, and I wasn’t distracted by the emotion after a good play or a bad play. I could let the situation dictate what we had planned to call,” he said.
“It was just easier. First time in 23 years I was in the box, and I wish I’d done it earlier. It helped me concentrate.”
The defense did improve, but that could because the Mountaineers’ final two games were against low-profile offenses in Iowa State and Kansas, the Jayhawks being a team that did not win a Big 12 game and had only one victory during the year.
Patterson was comfortable as defensive coordinator for Graham in his only year at Pitt before Graham stunned Pitt to jump to Arizona State before the Panthers’ 2011 bowl engagement. In fact, he served as head coach for the Panthers in Graham’s absence for the BBVA Compass Bowl.
He had accepted a job at Arkansas State when he was told he was not a candidate for the Pitt head coach vacancy but came to join Holgorsen before ever coaching there.
Holgorsen has been on the road recruiting all week and is expected to address the coaching changes at a Monday press conference.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.