The first clear signal that the Backyard Brawl between West Virginia and Pittsburgh in football has come to an end and that a new era of defensive football is beginning for the Mountaineers came Wednesday with the official announcement that Keith Patterson had been hired to coach under Dana Holgorsen.
While Patterson’s assignment has not yet been announced, Holgorsen planning to do that when he finishes hiring his staff, he served last year as Pitt’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
WVU is replacing its entire defensive staff except for holdover Steve Dunlap. Coordinator and linebacker coach Jeff Casteel, defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich and cornerbacks coach David Lockwood all resigned at the end of last season to join their former WVU boss Rich Rodriguez in Arizona.
Casteel had run a 3-3-5 stack defense but Holgorsen has said he wanted to change that to either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense as the team moves into the pass-happy Big 12 Conference next year.
That is what Patterson ran at Pitt last year and had great success pressuring the passer. Pitt ranked No. 3 in the nation in sacks with 3.31 per game and tied for the No. 12 spot in tackles for a loss with 98.
The Panthers also were No. 14 in third-down efficiency, giving up first downs on just 31.98 percent of the third-down attempts. It also ranked No. 21 in rushing defense, giving up 116.9 yards a game, and No. 35 in total defense and No. 38 in scoring defense, allowing 22.4 points a game.
“Keith has had a lot of successful years coaching at some great programs, both at the college and high school levels,” Holgorsen said in a release from the university. “His years of experience in developing players and defenses will be an invaluable resource to our program, while his background in Texas and Oklahoma will only add to our recruiting efforts.”
Holgorsen has not been available for interviews since signing day.
Patterson brings 25 years of coaching experience at the high school and collegiate levels. At the collegiate level, he has helped lead two programs to seven bowl games, coached 13 all-conference selections, three All-Americans and has sent two players to the National Football League.
“Working at a place like West Virginia University with all of its history and tradition is a great opportunity for me,” Patterson said in the school’s release. “Coming off a conference championship and the Orange Bowl win, it’s an exciting time here, and now we have an even greater opportunity as we head into our first year in the Big 12 Conference. I have great respect for Coach Holgorsen and what he has accomplished, and I appreciate and look forward to being a member of the Mountaineer football staff.”
Prior to Pitt, Patterson spent eight years at Tulsa, including the final five seasons in which he served as the co-defensive coordinator. He coached the linebackers from 2003-05, 2007-08 and 2010, and the safeties in 2006 and 2009. He was an integral part of the Golden Hurricane’s success during his tenure, helping lead Tulsa to 65 wins, one Conference USA championship, three division championships and six bowl appearances.
In 2010, he helped mold a defense that led the country in interceptions (24) and ranked third in turnovers gained (36). The Hurricane faced No. 24 Hawaii in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl and defeated the Warriors, behind the defense’s six-turnover effort, including five interceptions.
His 2008 defense was No. 13 nationally in sacks and No. 37 in rushing defense. In 2006, Tulsa’s defense led Conference USA in total defense and pass defense under Patterson’s guidance. Tulsa was second in scoring defense and third in rush defense. The Hurricane ranked 11th nationally in pass defense and 21st in total defense, allowing only 159.2 passing yards and 296.8 total yards.
In 2005, he was instrumental in helping the Tulsa defensive unit rank among the top in C-USA and nationally. That year, Tulsa was first in C-USA for takeaways, pass defense and pass defense efficiency; second in total defense; and third in scoring defense.
Patterson came to Tulsa with 16 years’ coaching experience as a high school coach in Oklahoma and Texas.
He received his bachelor’s degree in health, physical education and recreation from East Central (Okla.) University in 1986. Patterson was a four-year letterman at defensive back at ECU from 1982 through 1985.
Patterson and his wife, Melissa, have two daughters, Fallon and Erin, and stepdaughter, Bretlie, and stepson, Kelby.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.