All The Right Moves

If football is truly like a game of chess, Keith Patterson is getting plenty of practice moving his pieces across the board. West Virginia's co-defensive coordinator has spent much of spring practice trying to find the right spot for each of his players.

Players are coming and going from the linebackers group at a somewhat dizzying rate.

Nick Kwiatkoski moved from outside linebacker to the inside. Donovan Miles left the position altogether to help provide depth at fullback. Josh Francis has bounced around to find the spot he is most comfortable in.

It's a process that may be every bit as important as teaching the fundamentals of the Mountaineers' new 3-4 defense, according to Patterson.

"It's an everyday evaluation," he said. "It's not just what they do on the field. It's what they do in the classroom. It's what they do in the meeting room, studying and dependability and things like that. It's an everyday evaluation.

"But I do like where we are. I know our kids play and work with great passion. We're excited about where we are. Once we get some of the guys that are coming back from injury, that's going to help us move guys to some other positions and create more depth."

Depth is an important luxury for every team in major college football, but it is more of a necessity for West Virginia as it heads into the Big 12 Conference.

With uptempo offenses throughout WVU's new league, players will see more snaps. And the need for fresh legs, both within an individual game and throughout a season, is unending.

"You have to have depth in today's game," Patterson said. "If you try to play the same 11 guys for 85, 90 snaps [per game], over the course of two games, you just really played what used to be the equivalent of three. You used to play 60 or 65 snaps per game. Now, over two games, you've played 180 snaps. That was three games in the past. Where that start to takes its toll is game 8, game 9, game 10. That's when you see it start to show up a little bit."

And thus, all the position moves Patterson and fellow co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest have made this spring have been built with that depth in mind.

It's even more of an issue this spring, because WVU is already a bit shorthanded as things stand currently. Both Terence Garvin and Jewone Snow (who are likely to figure prominently into the depth chart when they return to action) are out of action after offseason surgeries.

Once those players get back on the field, even more moves could be made.

"It's going to be a process and something we've got to continue to build," Patterson said. "We're just halfway through spring ball and we've still got scrimmage situations, which are completely different from practice.

"How are they going to respond when you're not on the field with them? We'll see. We've got our first test on Sunday. We'll see how that goes. I feel really good where we are. We're not where we want to be, but we're going to continue to work and develop depth, and look at guys and make sure we get them in the right spot, the right position. There's still a couple moves we can make that can help create more depth once we get some guys back from injury as well."

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