MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Keith Patterson spent the offseason engineering a pretty significant reconstruction of a defense that needed just that. When the planning ends and the playing begins Saturday against William & Mary, West Virginia's defensive coordinator will withhold nothing.
Not against an FCS opponent. Not with a Big 12 opener against the nation's No. 16-ranked team waiting a week later in Norman, Okla.
"I don't believe in that philosophy," said Patterson, the linebackers coach who was the co-coordinator last season. "We're going to play to win every single rep, every single play. I don't think you can sit there and hold things back. It's not going to be a secret for long. It's going to be on film eventually."
So when the defense debuts at Mountaineer Field for the noon kickoff on Fox Sports 1, the Mountaineers will play their 3-4, their 4-3 and their 3-3-5. They'll blitz more, they'll cover receivers tighter and they'll ask safeties to play closer to the action.
"That's just what we do," Patterson said.
WVU's defense was much more generic last season. As the games dragged on and the problems stacked up at a rate that outflanked the solutions, the defense played in a more simplified manner than it did to start. To address the limitations of youth, injuries and ineffectiveness, coaches made life easier on the players by removing many things.
That made it easier on opposing offenses, though. The Mountaineers could morph from a 3-4 to a 4-3, but doing so often tipped their intentions.
"The thing where I think we were pretty predictable was determining who was our fourth rusher," Patterson said.
The defense, whether led by Patterson or his predecessor, Joe DeForest, wanted to send four players to the offensive backfield on just about every snap. Yet they had no threat from the middle linebackers or cornerbacks and rarely blitzed safeties, who were usually deep in coverage.
That left the two outside linebackers.
If Josh Francis stepped closer to the line, offenses knew he was coming. If not, then Terance Garvin was the one the defense had to block.
Patterson wanted to fix that, which meant getting better at the 3-4, but also developing in a way to make the 4-3 more credible. He needed to add players and he needed returning players to adapt.
"I think we hit it on the head," he said.
It began with trusting veterans to become reliable parts of the plan. The focus in the offseason was in the middle. WVU had Isaiah Bruce, who was second on the team in tackles last season, but who was also a redshirt freshman who wore down as the season progressed.
And privately, Patterson knew he was going to move Bruce outside. That meant sophomore Nick Kwiatkoski, a high school safety, was going to have to bulk up and junior Jared Barber and senior Doug Rigg would have to accept Patterson's plan, which was going to ask them all to be ready to blitz and pressure.