MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - One day after experiencing the annual high of national signing day, West Virginia's football program is being forced to regroup because of a coaching change.
Keith Patterson, who by most indications seemed well on the way to revitalizing the Mountaineers' floundering defense during his one season as the coordinator, has left the program, apparently to rejoin Todd Graham at Arizona State.
West Virginia announced Patterson's departure in a short release Thursday afternoon.
"West Virginia University defensive coordinator Keith Patterson has voluntarily left the football program and is no longer a member of the coaching staff,'' said the statement.
"I want to thank Keith for his two years that he spent coaching in our program," coach Dana Holgorsen said via the same release. "He was a valuable member of our staff and we wish him nothing but the best."
The memo concluded by saying that the school "has no further comment at this time.''
Patterson served on the WVU staff for two years, originally arriving as the linebackers coach with the title of co-defensive coordinator along with Joe DeForest prior to the 2012 season. In reality, DeForest was the coordinator and Patterson under him, but when West Virginia's defense failed miserably that season positions were shuffled. Patterson moved from the press box to the field on game days and DeForest from the sidelines to the press box.
At the end of the regular season, Patterson was officially promoted to the job of defensive coordinator and his salary raised from $300,000 annually to $500,000. That was the salary being paid to DeForest, who remains on the staff as the special-teams coordinator at the same rate of pay.
The performance of Patterson's defense in the Pinstripe Bowl following the 2012 season and then again through the 2013 season was not statistically much superior to what it had been under DeForest, but the unit seemed to be making progress. It is expected to be better during the coming season as a young group of players both matures and becomes healthier.
Where Holgorsen turns for a defensive coordinator now seems up in the air. There are only three defensive coaches currently on staff and one, Damon Cogdell, just joined the program from the high school ranks. Tony Gibson is the safeties coach and Brian Mitchell coaches the cornerbacks.
Mitchell was a defensive coordinator at East Carolina, but was fired from that position after three years before coming to West Virginia a year ago.