Allan Taylor/WVMetroNews

Linebacker Jared Barber said communication is looking up this season after the WVU defense “kind of just played by the seat of our pants” in 2012.


MORGANTOWN. W.Va. — If West Virginia’s defense makes the strides necessary to compete in the Big 12, linebacker Jared Barber suggested it will hinge on two factors: toughness and communication.

Barber is among the holdovers from the 2012 unit that produced a weekly cavalcade of busted assignments on its way to allowing 64 touchdowns.

“We didn’t have really good communication last year,” he said. “We kind of just played by the seat of our pants.”

Though fall camp is only seven days old, the junior linebacker said change is evident—in the way coaches are demanding improvement, and the manner in which players are responding. Barber made six starts in his first two seasons, yet there’s no guarantee he’ll be among the first unit when West Virginia opens the season Aug. 31 against William & Mary. He ended spring listed as the backup to sophomore Nick Kwiatkoski at the Will inside linebacker.

“We’ve got a lot of kids that have played, and the competition is really high,” Barber said. “In practice every rep counts. You have to push yourself a lot more.”

Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, who oversees the linebackers, insisted Wednesday he’s “not ready to pat anyone on the back” so far. He even challenged the assertion that Sam linebacker Isaiah Bruce has a starting spot locked down, despite finishing second on the team with 94 tackles as a freshman.

Barber and Bruce are among the eight WVU linebackers who were three-star recruits coming out of high school. The Mountaineers have no linebackers on the current roster who ranked higher, though four-star signee Darrien Howard could alter that status if he qualifies. That reliance on developing midlevel prospects is a source of pride for Barber, who said “that’s what West Virginia football is about.”

He hopes this year’s unit can develop the sort of ruggedness and reliability that Patterson is seeking.

“We don’t get the four- or-five-star recruits a lot,” he said. “In the past we would get the two- or three-star recruits who come in. Maybe they’re not the most athletic, fastest or biggest guys, but they will work their butt off and play with a lot of effort and intensity.”

WVU ranked only sixth in the Big 12 with 23 sacks last season, and more than half of those were compiled by three players who graduated—Terence Garvin, Josh Francis and Jorge Wright.

Yet with uptempo passers getting rid of the ball quicker than ever, Patterson believes sacks will become harder to achieve. As much as he’d love to see the Mountaineers taking down the quarterback, Patterson said pressures might become the new benchmark.

“We have a production board, and we give our D-line and ‘backers points for hurries,” he said. “That quarterback hurry might result in an overthrown ball or a ball that’s thrown short, or it might even be the cause of an interception.”

Brian Mitchell said WVU’s cornerbacks battle has “narrowed down to about six guys,” though he won’t hint at the frontrunners.

“I don’t think we have a first-team, second-team or third-team. We have a collective that are trying to vie for two starting positions,” Mitchell said Wednesday.

“Each one of them has a specific talent, but we’re trying to develop that complete player.”

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  • Magic Mike

    All I can say is this. BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAd.

  • bva24

    Lost a potential starter at CB today. Already down to the backups. Yikes.

  • Concerned

    Traditionally I'd have to agree that Maryland was the best measuring stick. But I believe it's Oklahoma this year. We coulda shoulda beat them last year. If the d is better, we'll give them at least a scare and develop some confidence going forward. Otherwise, the season will be real long.

  • Bobby M

    I don't know how to feel about the defense. It just scares me to my wits end. Its one thing to lose key players but our entire defense was a monsterous FAILURE last year.

    Like every year (and most dont realize) the biggest game on the schedule is the Maryland game. Historically it determines the type of year we will have. IF we can beat Maryland this year - we'll win 6-7 games. If we lose we'll probably finish the year with 3-5 wins.

    Traditionally speaking - the Maryland game is the measuring stick!

    • Protechcpa

      You are justified in your concern. We kept the idiot architect of that defensive disaster for another year. How he still has a job anywhere in football is a mystery to me. Patterson was on board last year. If he had any effective ideas, would ANYONE on the staff have prevented him from implementation as last season unfolded? Boys among men.

      • PhotoBoothe

        Patterson was NOT "the guy" on the defensive staff, now he is. Remember the excellent Pitt D that gave us fits two years ago? That was a Patterson defense! Man among boys actually...
        Also, defensive depth is MUCH better, secondary coaching (corners) should be better. MUCH reason for optimism there. Except amongst the message board crowd of professional Chicken Littles...

      • Brian

        It was his first, and probably last, attempt at coordinating a defense. He is back where he made his name, now, which is coordinating special teams and recruiting. He has a very good track record in both regards, and I expect to see good things this season on special teams.

      • Bobby M

        I agree.

        People wont like this and I respect differing opinions but I put last year's crappy defense blame all on Holgoersen. I can't blame JoeD anymore than I could blame allowing a 10 year old kid coach defense. JoeD was only doing what he could. Did it work? Heck no! But who's to blame? Who hired an unproven D coach? Who watch the emabarassment on D game after game and allowed it to continue for as long as it did?

        I think Holgs is an offense genius and up till now - an unproven HEAD coach. But hey, he's new to it and there's a learning curve. So I'm still on his side. I just hope he personally learned from his mistake in hiring JoeD.

        That defense - I can't even stop thinking how awful it was! Teams were excited to play us because they couldn't wait to have fun and score points! That's how bad it was!