MORGANTOWN - It has been the better part of five months now that West Virginia's new defensive coaches have been installing and coaching a new defensive philosophy to a group of veteran players who had grown accustomed to something quite different and to rookies who are starting from scratch.
And they have done so while working for a month in spring drills and throughout fall camp against one of the fastest-tempo offenses in the country and one filled with some of the nation's most renowned playmakers.
But on Saturday, the Mountaineers get their first test against something quite different. It's not that Marshall's offense isn't talented. It is. But like most offenses in the country it's is simply different than that of WVU.
"Now you're introducing a whole new offense to them,'' first-year defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said. "Can they grasp that part of it within the scheme of our defense?''
So when West Virginia opens its season at noon Saturday in perhaps the final game ever with Marshall, is it a plus or a minus that the rebuilt and re-schemed Mountaineer defense will be encountering something that figures to be quite different than anything it has seen in practice?
Well, DeForest figures that what his team has had to deal with in practice can only help, not just when the Mountaineers face Marshall, but in virtually every game this season.
"It's the greatest thing that could ever happen,'' DeForest said of facing Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin and the rest of West Virginia's fast-paced offense. "The speed of the game by our offense, I don't know if we'll face anybody faster. So hopefully we won't ever get tempoed. That's the goal and that's why we play and practice fast.''
So, after 15 spring practices and a month of fall drills, what of that revamped defense? Has it made the type of progress the coaches had hoped?
Well, that remains to be seen. But at least after all that time and all those practices there seems at least to be a familiarity born. And that includes a sort of comfort level on the part of the coaches, who needed not only to teach the system, but adapt it to the personnel available.