It's all about flexibility.
"It's not like you can say, 'OK, this week we're playing an up-tempo team and we're going to develop this scheme [to address it],' '' Patterson said. "It had better be part of your system. And it's part of our system, being able to communicate from the sideline to the field and the field back to the sideline.''
The one and only reason teams try to play fast is to limit what defenses can do to stop them, primarily through substitution. If an offense can play quickly and change looks without substituting, the defense is forced to defend those different looks without substituting. Even without changing the offensive looks, running plays at a fast pace limits the time the defense has to make adjustments.
Patterson, though, is steadfast in his belief that if a defense is running a flexible scheme with flexible players, the offense loses much of the advantage normally created by playing fast.
"The offense is never going to dictate what we want to do defensively. I disagree with [offensive coaches who say they can do that by running at a fast pace],'' Patterson said. "Now, do I believe [the offense] can limit some of the things that you try to do [on defense]? Maybe so, because of the tempo. But if you have a communication progression in place, I do believe you can run your defense as normal. They go fast? We just call defense fast.''
Of course, that means being flexible on defense with the same personnel.
"If you have that type of player, which I think we have a few, then it creates problems for the offense,'' Patterson said. "That's the gist of our package. We're a multiple 3-4 and that's the way we're personneled. Being multiple means we can move from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 scheme to a 3-3 stack team. That's a handful to prepare for in the course of a week.''
In order to be able to switch seamlessly, however, it takes a handful of versatile players, which Patterson has tried to develop. He needs a few linebackers who can easily step down and become defensive ends. He needs safeties who can play as linebackers if called upon.
And so far he seems to have found a few. For instance, Brandon Golson sometimes spends as much time lined up as a defensive end as he does at linebacker. Freshman Daryl Worley is a big cornerback who can play as a nickel back safety near the line of scrimmage or cover the best receiver on the field.
"When you have those hybrid-type bodies - guys who can play on their feet, guys who can stick their hand on the ground and play - that definitely poses a problem [for offenses],'' Patterson said. "When they see us send four defensive linemen on the field, shoot, they probably know what coverage is coming. But when you can sit there and move out of a four-man front to a three-man front with the same people on the field, that's an issue.''
Patterson has adapted his defensive philosophy after years of working on teams that had wide-open offenses. Competing with or against coaches like Holgorsen and Gus Malzahn and Chad Morris have pretty much dictated his defensive philosophy.
"What we do on defense, everything I like and try to do from a defensive standpoint, are things that spread offenses don't like,'' Patterson said. "I've tried to build our package to defend those offenses because I don't believe in allowing an offense ever to dictate to us. So we have a plan and adjustments for everything.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.