It eventually cost former offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen his job, and also forced Athletic Director Oliver Luck to make the moves he did to hire now-head coach Dana Holgorsen.
It’s obvious, after talking with some of West Virginia’s new defensive staff members, however, that there is no identity crisis.
“I feel like our defensive staff is on the same page as far as our mentality and our identity as a defense. We want to play fast and be aggressive,” said new cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts. “We’re going to play fast, force turnovers and get off the field on third down.”
So, what’s this new defense going to look like? How will you be able to describe it?
I sought out some of the new defensive coaches today to try to find out that answer. It’s easier said than done when trying to find a straight answer, and what I heard was a cohesive mindset about the future.
I heard “Big 12.”
I heard “fast.”
I heard “aggressive.”
I heard “disruptive.”
I even heard “high octane” … and somewhere Keith Patterson was having flashbacks and new Arizona State head coach Todd Graham was smirking, I bet.
“We’re going to stop the run, and we’re going to hit the quarterback. We’re going to be an attacking, get-after-you type of defense,” said new defensive line coach Erik Slaughter. “That puts you in situations where you have to throw the football, and we’ll pin our ears back and go get you.”
West Virginia will start spring ball on Sunday, and that means it will begin to install co-defensive coordinators Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson’s new 3-4 scheme. It’s not a 3-3-5. That’s gone.
This 3-4 will likely move safety and potential defensive leader Terence Garvin to linebacker. It should also give more opportunities to more athletic players, as well.
“I can tell there’s a lot of hunger here. There’s a lot of excitement from what happened last year. I’m definitely hungry and excited to come in here and prove that we’re a team that can not only compete in the Big 12 but win it,” Slaughter said.
Roberts said the new defensive coaching staff has pledged a clean slate at every position. The Mountaineers lose five starters from last year’s defense – defensive linemen Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller, linebacker Najee Goode and defensive backs Eain Smith and Keith Tandy.
Even those experienced starters who return will be tested, though.
“I want our guys to play aggressively and fast. I want to see guys flying to the ball,” Roberts said.
Outside of speed and aggressiveness, this defense is build based on the fact that it will play against Big 12 Conference offenses, too. Holgorsen obviously had that in mind.
"There’s a lot of good offenses in the Big 12, and you’ve got to be able to keep playing,” Holgorsen said. “The game has changed. It’s more up-tempo. That’s one of the reasons we’ve changed so much.”
Long gone are the days when West Virginia lived on being “multiple” in Stewart’s era. Sure, the Mountaineers will have the ability to do multiple things on defense, but it will focus on being quick and aggressive.
That’s something the players can understand and surely understand.
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