Keith Patterson's Departure Spells Serious Trouble for Dana Holgorsen, WVU

Ben KerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterFebruary 7, 2014

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen walks with some of his players during a timeout in the fourth quarter of their NCAA college football game against Texas in Morgantown, W.Va., on Saturday, Nov.9, 2013. Texas won 47-40 in overtime. (AP Photo/Christopher Jackson)
Chris Jackson/Associated Press

West Virginia's defensive coordinator has been an interim job as of late. 

Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen confirmed on Thursday what Allan Taylor of West Virginia MetroNews first reported: Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson was leaving for a position at Arizona State.

“I want to thank Keith for his two years that he spent coaching in our program,” Holgorsen said in a statement through the team's Twitter account. “He was a valuable member of our staff, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

The Sun Devils had a defensive coordinator, Paul Randolph, but Patterson will assume the duties of defensive coordinator, linebackers and defensive special teams coach, according to an ASU release.

Patterson and Arizona State coach Todd Graham have a history together. The two played at East Central University and later coached together at Tulsa and Pitt. 

Keith Patterson
Keith PattersonJerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Assuming Holgorsen doesn't put special teams coordinator Joe DeForest back in charge of the defense—that seems like a stretch after the defensive nightmare of 2012—the Mountaineers will have a fourth different defensive coordinator in as many years. 

Therein lies a major issue as Holgorsen attempts to get West Virginia out of its downward spiral. 

With Patterson's departure, nine assistants have left or been let go since Holgorsen was handed the keys to the program in 2011 (wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway left in 2011 but has since rejoined the staff).

The first three to leave were former defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, cornerbacks coach Dave Lockwood and defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich. All three were members of former coach Bill Stewart's staff and were retained when Holgorsen was brought on as the head coach-in-waiting. After one season, however, they left to join former West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez at Arizona. 

More coaching turnover commenced following the 2012 season. Running backs coach Robert Gillespie took the same job with Tennessee, and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh left for Oklahoma under the same title (Bedenbaugh served under Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops at Arizona). 

Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

Cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts and safeties coach Steve Dunlap, the final remaining member from Stewart's staff, were let go.

Quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital left for Texas A&M, where he is now the co-offensive coordinator and play-caller. He is the only former assistant who left for a promotion. 

And now Patterson. The only assistant remaining from Holgorsen's first year is offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. 

Holding on to an entire coaching staff is difficult. Coaches come and go for a variety of reasons. That said, it would be delusional not to see that coaching turnover has been an issue for Holgorsen. New faces are coaching new faces. Many veteran players will be under the direction of their second or third different position coach. 

Additionally, player depth has been a problem for the Mountaineers since joining the Big 12 in 2012. It was especially problematic last season when the defense, noticeably improved at first, began wearing down midway through the year. Injuries, some season-ending, took out key players like safeties Wes Tonkery and K.J. Dillon and linebacker Jared Barber. 

That's not traditionally a formula for success. 

2014 will be an important year for Holgorsen. Hiring the right defensive coordinator, whether from within or from the outside, will be paramount on two levels. For one, that side of the ball has to improve anyway. West Virginia finished 99th in scoring defense last season, according to NCAA stats. Secondly, offense is a question mark; the defense may be asked to win a number of games next season. 

It may not be a one-and-done deal for whoever takes the defensive coordinator job, but there's no more time to rebuild. 

In a way, that's unfortunate. The one thing West Virginia needs as a program more than anything else is a break from coaching turmoil. 


Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.