Patterson: Syracuse Prep Job No. 1

  • By John Antonik
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  • December 19, 2012 11:30 AM
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Job No. 1 for defensive coordinator Keith Patterson is making sure everything runs smoothly as West Virginia prepares for its Pinstripe Bowl meeting against Syracuse at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 29.

Earlier this week, Coach Dana Holgorsen touched on some of the staff alterations he has made moving forward.

“Keith Patterson has been doing a fantastic job,” said Holgorsen. “He is a great defensive coordinator and has been for some time. Instead of having two guys sharing that responsibility, I think it is important for one guy to take the lead so he will be doing that.”

Patterson, who has prior defensive coordinator experience at Pitt and Tulsa, indicated that the same coaches will remain in the press box and on the field for the bowl game. That means he will continue to be on the field and do the defensive signaling.

“It’s a matter of staying on the field just so it’s not another (change) because the kids have been so used to seeing me signal,” Patterson explained. “We want to make sure, hey, we’re in control of this situation and for our players to just keep playing hard and play the next play.”

Also, Holgorsen indicated that graduate assistant Andrew McGee will be in charge of coaching the cornerbacks for the bowl. McGee played corner at Oklahoma State for two seasons in 2009-10.

“You can’t wholesale change at this point, so what you’ve got to do is to build things as close to what we were executing this season,” Patterson said.

Of course, after the bowl game, West Virginia’s next task will be finding a permanent coach to work with the corners. Patterson said there will be total staff involvement in the hiring process.

“Coach (Holgorsen) will definitely have a final say in the decision and will be very involved in it, but we’re just looking to try and find the right fit,” Patterson said. “That’s important with the other guys on the defensive staff to make sure we do get the right fit and we get the right chemistry.”

Patterson says there are specific things the new cornerbacks coach will need to bring to the table, most importantly, a willingness to learn West Virginia’s defensive system.

“It really doesn’t matter what you knew from the past,” Patterson said. “You want to get people who are familiar with what you are looking for because people kind of get set in their ways and you’ve got to be willing to change and grow as a coach. We are looking for people who can think outside the box. Obviously, you have got to have someone who can recruit and you want someone who has the ability to go out and bring in players that are going to help us win.”

Because corner is such a vital position on the defense, the person coaching that area must bring confidence to the meeting room and that confidence has to carry over with the players.

“They have to be very confident in the way they teach because that is the one position on the field where if you make a mistake everyone sees it,” Patterson said. “You have to have someone who breeds confidence in their players and creates discipline, yet is also a fundamentally sound football coach.”

Patterson said the defense will continue to be multiple and the guys on the corners must be capable of handling that.

“I think that’s the biggest thing that you just can’t sit anymore and play coverages and let the quarterbacks know that you are in two-deep with a single-high safety and let them draw a beat on you,” said Patterson. “They are just too well-versed at reading coverages, so you’ve got to mix it up and disguise things.”

And that goes for the entire defense as well.

“The whole premise of our defense is who is the fourth rush?” said Patterson. “Is the fourth rush coming from the field? Is he coming from the inside? Is he coming from the boundary? You have to be able to disguise that and not only disguise who the fourth rusher is, but give them one look from a cover standpoint and all of a sudden it’s not the one they thought.”

After struggling mightily to stop Big 12 offenses for most of the season, West Virginia saw considerable improvement in its final two games against Iowa State and Kansas, the Mountaineers limiting the Cyclones to 396 yards and then holding Kansas to just 274 total yards for the best defensive performance of the season.

The Jayhawks were also held to 10 points - 28 fewer than what the Mountaineers are giving up for the season. Patterson naturally would like to see that carry over into the bowl game and then on into next season when the defensive staff is completed.

“What we’re trying to do right now is focus on winning and trying to get through the Syracuse game and then we’ll pick up pace (on the hiring process) immediately after that game,” he said.