MORGANTOWN. W.Va. — His palms stretch high above his head in a double-Horshack, and then his elbows spread wide like he’s sizing up an amberjack that snapped the rigging.

Keith Patterson treats interview sessions like coaching clinics. He can’t discuss defense for 10 seconds without using his arms, and he doesn’t believe a Big 12 team can play defense effectively without long ones.

Allan Taylor/MetroNews

WVU’s rangy defensive bookends: 6-4 junior college transfer Dontrill Hyman (99) and 6-7 Will Clarke.

So, after three days of assessing the player inventory at preseason camp, Patterson raves about limbs and length on the front seven of his West Virginia defense.

“There’s times we can be really impressive-looking up front,” Patterson said.

Obviously there wasn’t much impressive about the 2012 defense, which Joe DeForest orchestrated for 12 games and Patterson oversaw leading up to the Pinstripe Bowl. Enter several game-ready junior college recruits who, when meshed with presumably more mature returnees, aiming to reduce the what-the-hell moments that characterized last year’s unit.

“We’d better,” Patterson said.

The juco cavalry that has Patterson pumped includes defensive end Dontrill Hyman (6-foot-4, 265 pounds) and Buck linebacker Brandon Golson (6-2, 230), while Spur linebacker d’Vante Henry (6-5, 205) is being held out of practice dealing with what Dana Holgorsen called “personal issues.”

All three have the athleticism to function in multiple alignments—a necessity with the proliferation of uptempo offenses severely limiting substitutions. These Big 12 schools want to play basketball on turf? Then Patterson will defend with basketball-style athletes.

“When you have guys who are 6-3, 6-4, and 6-5 dropping into coverage with their wingspans, those (passing) creases become smaller and the creases also become taller,” Patterson said. “So now the ball has to be elevated in order to get it over someone or it has to be thrown with a little more zip to be able to get it into that smaller window.”

“(Golson’s) more complete as a run-pass defender. Josh (Francis), he was a pass rusher, whereas Brandon—at 230 pounds with his frame and his strength—he’s an effective pass rusher and very effective versus the run. Not so much the situational stuff. — WVU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson

Because Golson was unable to enroll at WVU this summer, he was left to do his own conditioning at home in South Carolina. That doesn’t typically yield the same results as players working with a campus strength staff and building off the energy of their teammates. But Golson impressed coaches by showing up for camp in impressive shape.

“He’s pretty explosive,” Patterson said. “He’s everything we thought he was when we recruited him.”

At the Buck position, Golson features more versatility than the player he’s replacing, Josh Francis, who was second on the team with 4.5 sacks last year.

“This guy’s more complete as a run-pass defender,” Patterson said. “Josh, he was a pass rusher, whereas Brandon—at 230 pounds with his frame and his strength—he’s an effective pass rusher and very effective versus the run. Not so much (just) the situational stuff.

“When you have those hybrid-type bodies, where guys can play on their feet and stick their hands in the ground, that poses a problem (for offenses). When you can move into and out of a three-man front to a four-man front with the same people on the field, that’s an issue.”

Hyman could deliver the biggest impact of all, working as the bookend opposite 6-7 senior Will Clarke. Patterson doesn’t envision his rangy ends coming around the edge in futile chase of quarterbacks who chuck passes inside of two-Mississippi. Rather he sees them clogging the B-gap between the offensive guard and tackle, using their length to form human eclipses that disrupt the quarterback’s vision on quick slants.

“Then you’ve got a quarterback trying to throw over something that’s 9 feet tall,” said Patterson, arms raising again.

Better personnel unleashed in a wider variety of deployments—that’s what makes Patterson enthusiastic to see WVU’s defense reborn in 2013.

“By no stretch are we where we want to be, but thank God we’re not where we used to be.”

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  • Helen5844

    A lot of people talk about loosing our defense to Arizona. However, in 2012 they were 100 of 124 on passing defense. Is that what you want!!!!! We will be much better this year.

  • Helen5844

    When the team played in the Orange Bowl, it played as a team. Every player wanted to be there and they all wanted to win. They each gave 100% of themselves. Our defense was not the best ever, but they all played their best and we won big.
    It is up to the team every year. Last year we had maybe three players playing every week. One of them thought all he had to do was show up. That did not work. If another player stepped up no one said anything and they did not play the same the next week. This year we do not have a so called player who can do it all. We need every player. We need a team. If we loose a game we need to try harder and if we win we need to work toward the next game.
    None of our games are easy. So we have to play each and every quarter to the fullest.

  • Magic Mike

    Do not get your hopes up. It will take at least 4 years to rebuild the defense. I do not see much recruiting on the defensive side of the ball.

  • mountaineerfromdc

    I completely agree with maxxajay and Jspurlock. I know this is America and we have freedom of speech but there is too much negativity from the Mountaineer fanbase and the media in general. Despite what you say lee Arthur, I am excited about this year and the Mountaineers. 8 wins are below my expectations, 9 wins plus a bowl win is what I expect but regardless I will always bleed blue and gold. Let's gooo Mountaineeers!!!!!

    • big tom

      ur a total idiot if you think we get 9 wins.

      • WVUGRAD1995

        Contact me in Jan!

  • big tom

    i am all in with Dana,,,,he needs at least three more yrs...he was brought in , in a very difficult situation both player and staff personal in fact we can just about throw away his first two yrs..
    let's begin now, and say , he is rebuilding a sinking program.
    Dana is good for wvu,,, contact me in three yrs.

  • PnN2TheWind

    The return of the swiss cheese defense. This defense will be able to hold opposing offenses back like a screen can hold back water. How many TD's over 50 yards does this defense give up in 2013? Over/under 15.

    • Yogi Wahoo

      Under ....way under.....obviously you should clean your shoes Gomer Pn..your smelling bad

  • Game on

    I fully agree with maxxjay. This is a very solid team and the fact that we lost some impressive talent has people thinking we can't load up. Don't question the wizard that is coach Holgerson in grounds of offense, he's got that covered. The d will be sufficient not great but sufficient, 2014 is the payoff year but 9-3 is a good waiting prize.

  • bill

    if they have a defense it's got to be better than last season. Been watching college football 30 yrs and last seasons wvu defense was worst defense I have ever seen. hopefully 11 new starters.

  • rekterx

    I fully expect to see a great reduction in "what-the-hell" moments.

  • wvrefugee

    "presumably more mature returnees, aiming to reduce the what-the-hell moments that characterized last year’s unit."

    Blahahaha!!! Nice one!

  • big tom

    if our def. is no betterthan last yr,, we win maybe 3 to 4 games,, if it's improved, we win 6 games, and a bowl... that sounds about right,
    but miracles can always happen, we could ,with a bowl, win 8,,, that's a miracle

    • Terry Wigfield

      Last year virtually everyone had us winning the NC or at least 9 games. That is why they play the game. You state the above like it's fact, Not even you Big Tom have a crystal ball. You may have an opinion or believe-but it's just an opinion.
      Now I believe the defense issues was totally coaching. With so many young players the defense would have been a challenge to a veteran DC. Patterson has produced good defenses. I believe the defense will be good this year..not great but pretty good. Joe is a good ST co-ord, we brought in some good kickers. ST goes up two notches this year. Leaves offense...I believe the offense will be better this year. not as many yards or explosive scores...but more consistent due the dynamic running game. As we have seen with Dana offenses it takes a good running game to open the passing game. Meaning we don't need as good of QB to complete passes. We may not have Tavon breaking loose on 75 yd scampers. But well be pounding out yards moving the sticks. I believe 9 or 10 wins.

    • Art in Ohio

      Big Tom is on target .. 8 wins would be a miracle..a wonderful miracle. That would mean at least 5 wins in the Big 12---that's a goal to work towards. Miracles in sports are worth the price of the ticket if it goes your way.

  • Maxxajay

    With the improvement in our defense with a new D coach things are looking bright ...I'm saying as I said before we will finish 9-3 over all and three 6-3 in the Big 12 ....I really like this team...most of these guys have 2 or more years to play...WVU is not rebuilding people they Loading up and I see that coming in years to come... We have the right AD director And the right head coach to make this happen...more to come

    • lee arthur

      Maxxajay you are not the brightest bulb on the lamp are you ?

      • WVUGRAD1995

        Have a great season at Marsha!

      • Joe

        Maxxajay is right! Patterson will have our D much improved. Does anyone not remember us struggling to score 21 against his Pitt D? Holgy will have our Offense fine, and Ollie will certainly have our Athletic Dept healthy! I expect us to over achieve this year for sure!

      • JSpurlock

        Maxxajay's positive outlook is refreshing to see compared to all the negativity that spewed across the comments on these articles!!

    • Wemakerain

      Stew never played a Baylor or Oklahoma State, he couldn't manage Uconn and East Carolina with Pat White and Noel Devine. He was a great motivator and wonderful man, but a defensive mastermind he was not

  • pghmountaineer

    Man, if we can't improve on last year's defensive performance it will be a long season. But realistically, there is nowhere to go but up at this point. Hopefully we can drastically reduce the number of big plays (i.e. over 25 yards) on the defensive side. That in itself would be a major accomplishment.