MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Jeff Casteel doesn't disguise the way he feels about his defense nearly as well as he disguises blitzes up front and coverages in the secondary.
Right about the time West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen started heaping praise on the energy and the progress of the defense, the defensive coordinator used different words to describe how things were going.
Specifically, Casteel says, "We're not very good right now," and for one overriding reason.
"We're very inconsistent," he said. "They're decent one day and then they're not. We're still installing some things and we've seen some progress, but the thing that we're trying to make sure we can get on a consistent basis is the effort and physical play.
"Those are the things that, for us to be successful, we're going to have to handle. We're trying to beat that into the kids right now."
Steve Dunlap has been here before.
The WVU safeties coach was on the Mountaineers staff from 1984-2000 and was the defensive coordinator the last 10 of those seasons.
In 1996, he ran the nation's top ranked defense.
In 2010, Casteel was in charge of one of the country's best - No. 3 overall, No. 3 in scoring and No. 2 against the run. In 1997, Dunlap had to place a lot of starters and regulars. Casteel is trying to do the same thing right now.
Dunlap had an interesting fix.
"We had a bunch of veteran players, juniors and seniors (in 1996) and I think we lost seven starters off that team," Dunlap said. "The next group thought they'd just go out there and everything would be OK. It doesn't work that way. You've got to earn your stripes every day.
"In 1997, three games into the season, we took a third of the defense out. They couldn't handle it. They were making so many mistakes we couldn't handle it."
The Mountaineers allowed 79 points in the first three games and gave up 31 points twice. They were 2-1, but Dunlap had seen enough.
"I just thought that the players that were playing behind (the 1996 team) thought they would step in and everything would be the same, but it was mistake after mistake," he said. "It's a mental game as much as a physical game, but it was a ridiculous amount of mistakes we made."
In the next four games, WVU allowed 17, 0, 14 and 17 points and won all four games.
Nothing is guaranteed to anyone and it's a point Dunlap is careful to make and one Casteel is sure to reinforce this preseason.
WVU is trying to replace seven 2010 starters on defense and asking players who were part-time contributors or observers last season to make larger assists this season. Casteel said one of the main problems is finding a group of players to put together on a regular basis in practice.