Andrew Cousins/MetroNews

Will linebacker Doug Rigg made 58 tackles as a junior, fifth-most on the West Virginia defense.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — He kiddingly blamed years of football-related head trauma, but Doug Rigg knew the real reason he couldn’t recall last year’s thrilling games against Baylor and Oklahoma.

Because they were a blur.

In those dizzying, tackling-optional matchups that came to epitomize West Virginia’s defensive chagrin, the Mountaineers outscored Baylor 70-63 and later lost to Oklahoma 50-49. Both outings were chaotic and disorienting for Rigg, a linebacker who was in the middle of the noise yet had to watch game film to understand what transpired.

“Baylor’s offense moved so fast, I honestly don’t even remember the game,” he said. “And when I walked off after that Oklahoma game, I couldn’t even remember the plays.”

As one of two senior linebackers on this season’s roster, Rigg hopes the WVU defense can shed its dazed-and-confused look. That makes it incumbent upon coaches relaying quicker sideline calls and defenders conditioned to be in perpetual-hustle mode.

“You have to get a call, get lined up, see who’s out on the field (offensively) and recognize a play within a couple seconds,” said Rigg, currently working with the first unit at Will linebacker. “And as soon as the guy gets tackled, they’re right back on the ball again.

“You’re just trying to get ahold of everything.”

Practicing against Dana Holgorsen’s uptempo offense gives WVU’s defense a taste, though several other Big 12 teams attack at an even more relentless pace. Based on what he witnessed during preseason camp—a time when perceptions are admittedly rosy—Rigg said the communication system has been streamlined under new defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. He also figures returning players are better equipped after enduring toiling last season.

“We play a strong-side, weak-side thing, so if the ball’s on the hash, we already know where we’re going,” Rigg said. “When the ball’s in the middle of the field, that’s the only real time you need to declare who’s on what side.”

One emphasis for Patterson this offseason has been to repeatedly rep his base defense, even in fourth-and-short or third-and-long situations that typically would necessitate specialty packages during games. So even though WVU will sometimes morph from its base 3-4 alignment into a 4-3—and even a 3-3-5 stack on some passing downs—Patterson’s focus of camp was mastering core principles before adding on situational dress-ups. For Rigg, who’s playing under his third coordinator in four years, it’s a return to simplicity he can embrace.

“During camp last year we were trying to put in so much stuff, we didn’t really get good at one thing,” Rigg said. “Later in the year, (coaches) were trying to be simplistic because guys were playing technique wrong.

“This year, we’re worried about the base defense and getting great at that and then building off of that.”

Though he’s a self-described “run-stopper guy” whose main function is to create negative plays on first and second downs, the 6-foot-1, 237-pound Rigg debunks the notion he’s one-dimensional.

“I’m pretty sure I had an interception last year,” he said, grinning over his pick against Marshall in the season opener.

While Rigg won’t be on the field in nickel or dime packages, he knows the pass-happy offenses of the Big 12 aim to exploit matchups on every down.

“It’s not like I can’t cover,” he said. “If I couldn’t do both, I wouldn’t be on the field.”

Characterizing his unit as legitimately two-deep this fall—which he suggested wasn’t the case in 2012—Rigg said WVU’s linebackers can shoulder all the pressure Patterson is placing on them.

“If we don’t play well defensively, it will come down to the linebackers,” Rigg said. “We have to be able to cover, we have to be able to rush the passer and we have to stop the run. Nobody else on the field has to do all three.

“So if the defense is bad then yell at me next time you interview me.”

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  • justme

    William is a football expert he played three positions in grade school guard, end and tackle he sat on the end of the bench guarded the water bucket and tackled anyone who come near it

  • john

    Doug Rigg get some more of your former Bergen Catholic High School players to head down to Morgantown. That would be a GREAT pipeline!

  • rwp4wvu

    The defense WILL be much better this year. The offense will be good, but different with our depth at running back. They should control the ball more, take more time off the clock and allow the defense to better catch their breath. Ditto wvuman, I enjoy reading all of Allan's articles.

  • Art in Ohio

    Allen, talking about linebackers....just received a phone call from Dayton Ohio that Darrien Howard has been cleared and the NCAA should make a statement tonight or tomorrow. This is good news for WVU for he is a great prospect at this position. Cutting it close...he had until Friday to get here. Have you heard anything on this matter???

  • derek

    The heart of the Defense. I believe we will improve by leaps and bounds on D.

  • wvman75

    I noticed that Allan has been posting more articles lately. I appreciate the hard work and thanks for keeping us up to date on Mountaineer football with the season approaching. Good job, Allan.

  • tw eagle

    if the D fails this year it won't be your fault . . .if I remember right , you played your sophomore year with a broken bone in your forearm . . .and it was your hit that knocked the ball loose in the orange bowl that gave
    cook his 15 minutes of fame . . .nah , if there's
    a let down in the Mounties this year , it won't
    be your doing . . .

  • Big Larry

    What? An article about the Defense?...Can you imagine that???

  • bva24

    Control the trolls. The Gazette and Daily Mail wised up and went to Facebook comments. It seems that people have a harder time being idiots when their actual name and picture are attached to their comments.

    • BH

      Terrible idea. The Gazette and Daily Mail fb comments are DULL! MetroNews comments are way more interesting, colorful and honest.

    • Grant

      Brilliant suggestion. Though I think with our resident idiots, it wouldn't make a difference.

  • Justin

    Would love to see a leader rise up. Was such a blast to see Pat White on the sidelines lifting his troops when he played. Its good were all on board just wanna see a captain.

    • William

      WVU = No Leadership!
      Holgerson said that of last years team!
      What a coach WVU has.

      • hailey

        Willie= troll

      • Kevin T

        You are officially crowned Lord of the Idiots.