MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- As difficult as it was for Jeff Casteel's defense to be as good as it was last season with an offense that frequently put the defense in bad situations, West Virginia's defensive coordinator knows it will be harder to replicate that success in the 2011 season.
Oh, he'll try. He might even pull it off, given his resume that was last updated to
include a defense that was No. 3 overall last season, No. 3 in points allowed and No. 2 against the run.
Yet having to replace seven starters is about as easy as it sounds.
Supporting an offense that is going to play with a tenacious tempo and try to ring up touchdowns and first downs at an alarming rate is far more demanding.
"Our challenge will be to play a good, solid defense around that," Casteel said, "and if you go and look at the numbers on the other side of the ball with some of the high-tempo offenses, usually ..."
He trailed off, but the point was clear. Elite offenses are oftentimes exclusive.
Of the 20 best - or is it worst? - in time of possession last year, only one team had a top 20 defense (Syracuse, No. 7).
That group included Oklahoma State and Houston, where Holgorsen recently worked as the offensive
coordinator (2010 at OSU and 2008 and '09 at UH), and where he left an influence those teams still follow today.
Texas Tech is in there, too, and while those Red Raiders are not the ones who gained fame with Holgorsen and former Coach Mike Leach, it's still a fast-paced spread offense.
Of last season's top 20 in scoring offense, which again included Oklahoma State (No. 3) and Houston (No. 14) and barely excluded Texas Tech (No. 23), only four had to top-20 defenses - Boise State, Nos. 2 and 2; TCU, Nos. 4 and 1; Wisconsin, Nos. 5 and 20 and Ohio State, Nos. 11 and 3.
And remember, Boise State and TCU played in non-BCS leagues and Wisconsin and Ohio State are not tempo teams.
Offenses that play fast can score fast or punt fast or turn it over fast, too. Whatever the outcome, the quicker the offense moves the sooner it's off the field and the defense is back on it.