All of the assistant coaches coaching the secondary under Patterson are new — Tony Gibson with the safeties and Brian Mitchell with the cornerbacks — but the front seven is still in the charge of Patterson and defensive line coach Erik Slaughter.
And, as Holgorsen said, the bodies are basically the same as last year. Virtually everyone currently in the two-deep, save for junior college linebacker Brandon Golson, was in the program last season, although some played only as backups or sat out the year injured or redshirting.
In other words, it remains to be seen if what amounts to small changes — as opposed to a vastly different scheme and a hoard of new faces — will make a big impact.
"It's the same scheme. There's going to be some small changes that Keith's going to like to do a little bit different than what Joe liked to do, but it's relatively the same scheme,'' Holgorsen said. "It's just like us offensively. We can do some things differently this year than we did last year that are going to be small differences that you're really not going to be able to tell the difference from the stands.''
Same with the players. There are enough experienced bodies on defense that WVU could put a starting group on the field in which everyone has at least some starting experience. That's not likely, but the point is there even will be backups who have started games in the past.
"I'd like to think that these guys are just a year more comfortable in what we're asking them to do,'' Holgorsen said. "For instance, [sophomore safety] Karl [Joseph] and [senior safety] Darwin [Cook], two experienced guys at the safeties, those guys need to disguise things. They can't give away what they're going to be doing or offenses [WVU's offense in practice and opponents later on] will be able to see it and get in better plays and all the rest.''
With all that experience, Holgorsen hopes his two safeties, and perhaps others, will be able to disguise defenses better and "they're going to learn how to do things probably sneakier and a little bit different.''
The bottom line, though, is until the defense faces an actual opponent, all of this — including Holgorsen's optimism — is speculation.
"I hope — and you don't know this until you actually start playing — I hope defensively we're ahead of where we were last year based on coaching and experience and schemes and blah, blah, blah,'' Holgorsen said. "I hope it's not because we're just inadequate on offense. But again, how are you going to know until you actually spot it up and start playing?''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.