MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - College football is obsessed with speed. If it's not about putting stopwatches to prospects or finding ways to get the fastest players in open space, then it's a matter of ramping up the tempo and winning games by overwhelming opponents with rapid-fire plays.
The latter has competitors concerned. Prominent coaches are now speaking out against the increasing offensive pace, asking people to consider how it might raise the risk of injuries and insisting that defenses be given more time to substitute and avoid mismatches with bigger, heavier and thus more susceptible defenders.
That has drawn reactions, not surprisingly from the Big 12.
"You want me to play slower, well, OK, you need to get smaller, less strong defensive linemen. To me, it's asking to do that," Texas Tech Coach Kliff Kingsbury told the Associated Press. "Stop recruiting these beasts up front and we won't run as many plays."
West Virginia's defense, manipulated and maligned for much of the 2012 season, is preparing for its second Big 12 season with an approach that wouldn't seem to make much sense. Not in a league that saw four of the nation's top 25 teams in offensive snaps in 2012.
Yet new defensive coordinator Keith Patterson is asking his players to slow down just a little.
"Coach emphasizes being patient," said linebacker Isaiah Bruce, whose speed had a lot to do with his 90 tackles last season. "A lot of times we tend to try to react too fast and that puts us out of position. He tries to emphasize getting more depth from the line of scrimmage so we can see everything before we react."
Consider that using the sort of patience Patterson requests. Space is a valuable commodity with the amount of playmakers in the Big 12. Speed and immediacy are keys to shutting down a lot of plays before they can get started and find that space. The Mountaineers, it would seem, are conceding both, but with a purpose.
"It's not like we're trying to play slow, but coach says he wants us to be patient and right instead of fast and wrong," Bruce said. "I can get anywhere really fast, but if I'm not in the proper position to make a play, it's just a waste of a person. If you key correctly and you're in the right spot and everyone does the same as far as their position goes, we should be able to stop any play the offense throws at us."
Patterson endorses depth so his middle linebackers have a more expansive view of the offensive formation and the line and backfield, in particular. The offense knows what it's doing before every snap. It's rehearsed that specific play countless times. Everything that happens after the ball is put in play is automatic.