Maybe the realization surfaced as early as Week 4, when Baylor’s Lanear Sampson sprinted into halftime (and through a misaligned defense) for a 67-yard score.
Or perhaps it crystalized during Week 8, when TCU receiver Josh Boyce somehow was ignored on a game-tying 94-yard catch in the final 88 seconds.
Just as easily could have been the 55 points K-State hung up in a romp or the 50 Oklahoma hung up in a thriller.
The precise moment of comprehension doesn’t really matter, because the 2012 season featured a comet of calamity in which West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen realized his defensive staff needed changes.
On Dec. 8 he dismissed cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts, and four days later, word leaked of a chain-of-command restructuring: Keith Patterson promoted to defensive coordinator, the distinction Joe DeForest held during the regular season.
The tidy performance of Joe DeForest’s safeties and special-teams units at Oklahoma State the past 12 seasons apparently wasn’t enough to establish a reservoir of credibility. Then again, allowing an average of 51 points over a seven-game stretch would drain most reservoirs.
Holgorsen clarified the new workflow Monday, re-emphasizing DeForest’s value to the staff even as he ceded defensive play-calling duties to Patterson.
“(DeForest) is a tremendous football coach and has focused a lot on the safeties, which we have two pretty good ones that have played good football,” Holgorsen said. “He brings a bunch of experience from a recruiting standpoint, from a special teams standpoint, from an associate head coach standpoint and from a next-guy-in-charge standpoint, and that will continue.
“Instead of having two guys sharing (defensive play-calling) responsibility, I think it is important for one guy to take the lead, so (Patterson) will be doing that.”
Who knows for certain how much blame DeForest deserves for West Virginia ranking 113th out of 120 FBS teams in scoring defense or 119th against the pass; but in a production-based business, he certainly makes an easy fall guy. And because this statistical nightmare transpired in his first season as a coordinator, fans were especially distrusting. (The tidy performance of DeForest’s safeties and special-teams units at Oklahoma State the past 12 seasons apparently wasn’t enough to establish a reservoir of credibility. Then again, allowing an average of 51 points over a seven-game stretch would drain most reservoirs.)
Under the new arrangement, DeForest retains his associate head coach tag and his $500,000 salary. With two years remaining on his contract, DeForest can focus on developing a consistent safety to pair alongside freshman phenom Karl Joseph, and Patterson can begin implementing what Holgorsen described as “noticeable changes” to the most scored-upon defense in WVU history.
“Is every problem going to be fixed in a month? Of course not,” Holgorsen said. “But we’re going to make progress toward what we want it to look like a year from now.”
DeForest can focus on developing a consistent safety to pair alongside freshman phenom Karl Joseph, and Patterson can begin implementing what Holgorsen described as “noticeable changes” to the most scored-upon defense in WVU history.
Conventional wisdom held that Holgorsen essentially implemented the coordinator shuffle leading up to the TCU game, when DeForest moved to the coaches’ booth and Patterson replaced him on the sideline. Holgorsen claimed Monday “it happened about 8 a.m. on Sunday after the Kansas game,” a time frame that allowed Patterson to put his stamp on the defense during bowl practices.
“Once the Kansas game was over … there was no sense in wasting time with it,” Holgorsen said. “There is no sense in pushing the pause button when you know you are going to do something at the end of the season.”
Patterson, who has previous coordinator experience running 3-4 schemes at Pitt and Tulsa, said there isn’t enough time to implement wholesale changes before the Dec. 29 Pinstripe Bowl. Yet he asserted the need for Mountaineers defenders to “develop my mentality” in order to make immediate gains.
“I’m not waiting until next year,” Patterson said. “I’m hoping to see improvement against Syracuse.”
For the West Virginia defense, it could be a December to remember, on the heels of a season too statistically embarrassing to forget.
CORNERBACKS COACH UPDATE
Graduate assistant Andrew McGee will coach the Mountaineers cornerbacks through the bowl while Holgorsen and Patterson conduct their search for Roberts’ permanent replacement.
It’s a nice three-week audition for McGee, an all-Big 12 corner at Oklahoma State in 2010 who recovered from a broken neck the previous season.
“He’s a soldier,” Patterson said. “He’s going to do exactly what you tell him to do, and he’s got an extremely bright future in front of him. He understands the techniques. He’s been to battle. He’s played against Big 12 Conference wide receivers.”
While WVU’s preferred candidates are currently coaching other teams in bowl games, Patterson said the eventual hire must carry an open-minded approach.
“You’ve got to be willing to change and grow as a coach,” he said. “Some people get set in their ways and … some people consider themselves beyond the point of really trying to learn something new.
“And, obviously, you’ve got to have somebody who can recruit, somebody who has the ability to bring in players and help us win.”
Holgorsen’s statement on the recently-fired Roberts:
“He is a great friend, a great person and a great football coach. We appreciate his time here and his effort and energy with everything he was doing, and we wish him luck in his future endeavors.”