The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

March 12, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- Patterson is in the hot seat

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen had just finished his address to the media during the school’s annual pre-spring practice luncheon and was turning the focus over to his assistant coaches, who were finding seats at tables around the room.

Gary Patterson grabbed his and as he sat down you expected him to jump back up in pain, for if anyone has followed WVU football he would know that Patterson is on the hot seat.


This is the year Patterson assumes the title of defensive coordinator of the Mountaineers, which fielded among the five worst defenses in college football last year and by far the worst ever in WVU’s long football history.

A year ago Patterson carried the title of co-defensive coordinator and linebacker coach, while Joe DeForest was in title the defensive coordinator.

Now, anyone knows that if you have co-coordinators you have no coordinator, and that was pretty much how it appeared. The “co-” title for Patterson was probably put there in order to be able to give him a few more bucks in his paycheck.

Ask him about being a co-coordinator last year and exactly what that meant, he simply answers:

“I just tried to make the linebackers the best I could and help the best I could from a coaching and schematic standpoint.”

This year?

“I know where I am right now and I’m heading forward.”

In truth, that is the only way this defense can go ... and it damn well better because you cannot expect an offense that lost quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to match last season’s record-shattering production.

When last seen, the defense was being shredded on the ground by a rather ordinary Syracuse team in the Pinstripe Bowl, one final indignation and one that came in Patterson’s first game as defensive coordinator, although it was hardly what you would call anything but a walk-through.

Certainly, it meant nothing to Patterson.

“I have not thought about it since the last second clicked off the clock,” Patterson said.

He didn’t even go back and analyze film of it.


Because it was last year and that doesn’t count any longer.

“It doesn’t matter what Isaiah Bruce did a year ago. It doesn’t really matter what Karl Joseph did a year ago. That’s not going to do a single thing to help us win our first game this next season,” he said.

Patterson sees this as starting over completely.

“Basically it’s like building a home. First you have to build a foundation. You have to identify who you are, identify your philosophies and expectations,” he said.

And he knows what that is and has spent the offseason getting it across to his defense.

“Be on time. Don’t be late for class. We worked on discipline,” he said. “We talk to our players all the time about how the way you do anything is the way you do everything.

“We want to be the least penalized defense in the country. We went down to the very first element of football, looking at ourselves.”

And once you know who you are?

“Then you get into defining what you are. What are we? We are an attacking 3-4 defense with simplistic teaching. We are going to be multiple but simple,” Patterson continued. “We want to create confusion in the mind of the quarterback, not just by impacting the quarterback physically but before the ball is even snapped. We want to put in his mind thoughts like, ‘What am I seeing? Am I really seeing what I think I’m seeing?’”

Patterson sees the defense as an extension of Holgorsen’s offense.

“Our defense has to complement our offense. We’re an uptempo offense. To complement that offense, our objective is to get the ball back to the offense as fast as possible with good field position. That allows them to get into a rhythm running offensive plays.”

The approach?

“We define who we are, then we define how we will stop the run, how we will control the pass. Then we lay out the keys to what a championship defense is built around,” he explained. “We spent an inordinate amount of time explaining and ingraining the minds of these young men what it takes to be successful on defense.

“We focused on ourselves, on philosophy and expectations, who we are and where we’re headed and what our goals are for the spring. We will harp on that over the next five weeks, and then see where we are at the end of spring ball.”

Email Bob Hertzel at or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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