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Mike Casazza: Expect to see different looks from WVU defense

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Should you see Doug Rigg walking around campus and you choose to stop the senior from New Jersey for a moment, do ask the linebacker what type of defense West Virginia is playing in the 2013 season.

Just make sure your schedule is clear.

"I would say a multiple, attacking 3-4 defense," Rigg said. "Sometimes we're going to be a 3-4 and sometimes you're going to look out there and we might be a 4-3 and sometimes we might be a 3-3-5 stack."

That's interes ...

"It's all about different looks and it's predicated on the call," Rigg continued. "That's what we're trying to worry about and get good at."

So going by Rigg's defini ...  

"We're not worried about trying to blitz," he continued. "We're worrying about trying to get good at our base calls so we can confuse the offense."

Rigg finally exhaled and his explanation deserves some examination.

Frankly, it merits some defending. Without dredging up too much of the past, let's just agree that the Mountaineers weren't very good on defense last year and simply state it was statistically the worst season in school history. They interchangeably and sometimes simultaneously struggled with rushing the passer, tackling the ball carrier and defending the receiver.

That happened during the first year of the 3-4 after more than a decade spent playing in and recruiting for the 3-3-5.

The 2013 defense returns a lot of players and has a new defensive coordinator with new ideas, but those new ideas are extra ideas. Keith Patterson wants his defense to play a 3-4 that will morph into a 3-3-5 to defend the pass, but also slide into a 4-3 to pressure the backfield. If the Mountaineers struggled with one concept last season, the thought of them working with three concepts a year later can't be comforting.

"It's pretty simple," Rigg insisted. "It sounds like it's not when you look at it, but it's really not hard. A lot of people have responsibility, but it's similar for each concept."

What WVU is doing on defense isn't entirely unlike what WVU does on offense. Dana Holgorsen identifies the players who can do something special when they get the ball and then devises way to get those players the ball.

Patterson wouldn't mind if some of his players found ways to get the ball in their hands, but he mostly searches for players who can blitz, strike, stripe, tackle and guard. Then he puts those parts together in a variety of packages to defend the Big 12's variety of offenses and personnel groupings.

Ideally, the looks change, the offenses never get comfortable and the defense is never caught with the wrong group on the field.

Yet Patterson is also teaching a lot of things to what this year is a lot of players. That was part of the problem last season, all the way from a complicated start to a very vanilla finish.

"Later on in the year, we were trying to be too simplistic because guys were playing the wrong technique," Rigg said.

"During camp last year, we were trying to put in so much stuff that we didn't get good at any one thing. This year, we're worried about the base defense and getting great at that and then building off of that. We play base in everything we do, no matter if we're at a disadvantage or if we have an advantage to stop them."

That is the mundane process by which the Mountaineers have maneuvered through the first two weeks of practice for the 2013 season. It hasn't been particularly exciting or exotic. Stunts and twists, corners crashing in from the boundary and safeties swooping down from the back end of the defense are not yet Patterson's concern.

Hurrying in from the sideline. Lining up properly. Communicating calls quickly and correctly. Finding the ball, racing to the ball. So far, all the players have been permitted to be interested in is mastering the basics.

That's about to change, though. When camp breaks following Saturday's practice and Patterson and his staff of three assistants put together a depth chart, they'll take the field together and begin a graduate level course in that description-defying defense.

"I think at first it was broad just to get a feel for all of it," Rigg said. "Before, you'd just drop. Now it's more, 'OK, drop here, but drop two feet that way.' It's going to be more detailed coming up. I think once we start paying more attention to detail, the better we're going to be."

Should you see Doug Rigg on campus a few weeks or months from now, he hopes all the questions have been answered. If not, he knows the conversation will be different.

"If we don't play well defensively, it'll come down to the linebackers," he said. "We take pride in that. We know we have to be able to cover, rush the passer and stop the run. Nobody else on the field has to do all three. If the defense is bad, then you can yell at me."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at or 304-319-1142. His blog is at



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