Tall pass rushers, of course, have been in vogue forever. Think of Ed "Too Tall'' Jones of the Dallas Cowboys as the trailblazer.
Now, though, with spread offenses almost the norm, there's reason to have length almost everywhere. With defenses trending more toward being flexible, linebackers or even defensive linemen aren't just bottling up the run and rushing the passer, they're dropping into coverage and filling passing lanes.
"Everything is about trying to throw into the creases of the defense,'' Patterson said. "When you have guys that are 6-3, 6-4, 6-5 dropping into coverage, they have a wider wingspan and those creases become smaller. The creases also rise. Now the ball has to be elevated to get it to someone over in the boundary. I just think when you have bigger, longer, athletic guys, it makes the size of those windows smaller.
"Once you get those body types, guys who can move with some suddenness and they've got the length, they don't have to be great cover guys. It's just their presence.''
WVU has had length on defense in the past, of course. Robert Sands was a 6-foot-6 safety. Terence Garvin played safety and linebacker at 6-3. And Clarke is no newcomer, having put his 6-7 frame on the defensive line the last three years.
Those are just a few exceptions, though. Patterson would like to make length on defense the norm.
"If we continue to recruit the way I'd like to recruit, I like those guys up front to be 6-4, 6-5. I like those guys on the perimeter and into the boundary to be 6-4, 6-5,'' Patterson said. "No less than what Golson is, probably 6-3. It just narrows those lanes and those windows. There's something about long bodies that creates something that's imposing when a quarterback tries to throw into that.''
Long bodies like that don't grow on trees, however. In fact, many taller players arrive in college as projects - lanky athletes who haven't fully developed or have spent much of their high school careers in another sport, like basketball.
"There are a lot of times we've got to beef them up a little bit,'' Patterson said. "So, yeah, it's a process.''
It's one Patterson is more than willing to tackle, though, because of the eventual rewards.
"Look at Will Clarke. He obviously didn't show up at 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds,'' Patterson said of Clarke, who was actually pretty close at 6-6, 260 pounds but still needed work in the weight room. "A lot of those times they're basketball players like Dontrill or like Will, guys who maybe thought through high school that they were going to go play basketball and they were 205 pounds. But that's who I'd really like to target.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.