By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
The biggest news about the West Virginia football team on recruiting day had nothing to do with recruiting at all.
Finally, Coach Dana Holgorsen admitted what everyone knew was coming, the days of the Mountaineers’ 3-3-5 defense that had served them so faithfully since the second season of the Rich Rodriguez regime are over.
Yes, they beat Georgia with it and they beat Oklahoma with it and they beat Clemson with it in BCS bowl games. Yes, they sent a busload of players to the NFL using it, from Pacman Jones to Brandon Hogan, from Chris Neild to J.T. Thomas.
With its chief advocate, defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel having taken Horace Greeley’s advice and gone west, joining Rodriguez in Arizona and bringing aides Bill Kirelawich and David Lockwood with him, Holgorsen has made the decision to bring in the defense he really has wanted all along.
“We will change,” he said at the end of his press conference introducing the day’s signings. “We will not do the 3-3 stack. It will be some version of the 3-4 or the 4-3.”
On a day of rebirth, national signing day, it was fitting that the defense would be reborn, too.
And one of the major architects was on hand for the first time to talk about it. Joe DeForest, a longtime aide at Oklahoma State, has joined his former fellow Cowboy coach and friend Holgorsen to coach defense.
While his duties have not yet been announced, considering that the defensive staff is not yet complete, he almost certainly will be co-defensive coordinator, at least, and perhaps the sole defensive coordinator.
That is fairly certain because Holgorsen promised him when he left the prairie that joining him would give him an opportunity to advance his career.
“The reason I came here was because I didn’t want to defend him,” DeForest said, jokingly referring to WVU’s move into the Big 12.
When the laughs died he expanded on what he meant.
“The reason I came here is it’s an opportunity for me to grow,” he said. “The reason I stayed at Oklahoma State 11 years was I promised my daughter I’d let her graduate from high school there.”
That would tend to make you believe you have a honorable and good man, one who would put a promise to a 6- or 7-year-old daughter ahead of his own personal career advancement.
His relationship with Holgorsen began when the two were competitors, Holgorsen at Texas Tech, then Houston, recruiting the Houston area together.
“Dana and I have known each other for 12 years recruiting Houston,” said DeForest, who has recruited Houston for 22 years. “We developed a friendship. Eventually the time came when we got him hired at Oklahoma State and what he did at Oklahoma State was remarkable.”
Of course, the relationship changes now with Holgorsen being the head coach, DeForest the assistant. Can he take direction from someone with whom he has been competitor and co-worker.
“That’s just being mature and professional. He’s the boss. Our friendship means he will give respect to what I say. We’ll work together. It’s not he’s in charge and we’re all underneath him. We’re all in this together. We’re going to develop a team as he sees the direction we need to go,” DeForest said.
The direction on defense is into a new scheme and exactly what that will be remains to be seen.
Certainly DeForest has not idea at present.
“I don’t know whose who yet,” he said. “I don’t know any of the players’ names yet.”
And they don’t know him.
“It’s a clean slate for everyone. Everyone on defense gets to start over and it’s a benefit to the kids coming in, they come in only 15 days behind as opposed to being two or three years in the system behind,” he pointed out.
The change is being dictated in no small amount by the move to the Big 12.
“In the Big 12 they are all pretty much spreads except for two teams. It’s going to be more open. You better have more speed and more athletes on the field,” DeForest explained. “We talked about the state of college football, the state offense, how it’s so fast, you look at Pittsburgh and what they did with the 3-4, they create so many problems,” DeForest said.
Mostly, WVU figures to be a 3-4 team for the very reason it went to the 3-3-5 stack. It is hard to get enough big defensive linemen to play a 3-4 than it is to get linebackers.
“There aren’t enough big D-linemen in the country. There just aren’t enough big guys who can rush the passer, so you have to adjust your scheme accordingly to what you have on campus,” he said. “You can find big safeties who can move down and big linebackers you can move to rush ends.”
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.