By Cam Huffman
Will West Virginia University’s defense be any better in 2013 than it was in 2012?
Many would say it couldn’t be any worse. After all, last year’s version was the worst in the history of the school’s football program. The proof, though, will come on the field this fall.
First-year defensive coordinator Keith Patterson — who took control of that job at the conclusion of the regular season, when job assignments were changed and Joe DeForest was stripped of those duties — isn’t making any predictions. But he has been pleased with his team’s performance during the first couple of weeks of summer camp.
“I think our kids are playing with great effort,” said the Oklahoma native, who has been a defensive coordinator at both Pitt and Tulsa in the past. “I like how our kids are buying into sound fundamentals.”
One of the key fundamentals, Patterson said, is footwork.
“It sounds very simplistic, but when you are moving people and you are changing your anchor points up front and playing different coverages. What you are supposed to be looking at changes constantly, especially if you are a second-level player,” he explained. “Therefore, we are trying to create the discipline within yourself to be able to control your feet before the snap of the ball, to eliminate wasted movement and to be able to fix and focus your eyes on your key to be able to play fast each and every snap.”
Patterson was officially labeled as the co-defensive coordinator last year, although it wasn’t his system and he didn’t make the play calls.
He was fully in charge during spring practice, though, and installed most of his basic system — which wasn’t drastically different than what was in place last fall. After two weeks of camp, he’s confident his players understand the scheme. Now, the task is to perfect every aspect of it.
“The thing we stress as coaches to our players is that we are always coaching effort and the details of assignments,” Patterson explained. “There has been a major emphasis on focusing and coaching with a critical eye and getting our guys to refine the scheme now that they understand it. We want them to not just know their reasonability but know and refine the techniques in order to carry those responsibilities out.”
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Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson has spent most of the summer praising his players and downplaying the loss of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, who are now in the NFL.
On Tuesday, though, Dawson reached his limit.
“It was extremely frustrating for the most part of practice, so there were certain motivational tactics used by a couple of coaches and myself, and finally they just started playing fast,” said the Louisiana native. “You are dealing with a bunch of new guys from either high school or junior college, and it is a different game here.”
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WVU will practice today and tomorrow and then close out summer practices on Saturday. Classes begin Monday, and the Mountaineers will have two weeks of preparation before the Aug. 31 season opener at home against William & Mary.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.