MORGANTOWN - I recently asked a rather philosophical buddy of mine who he thought West Virginia's next defensive coordinator would be. He said, 'You can't see DeForest through the trees.'
I don't know what that meant, but lets play connect the dots with WVU's defensive coaching situation, particularly as that pertains to the recently hired Joe DeForest.
DeForest, a friend of WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen's for more than 20 years, had spent the past 11 years on the defensive staff at Oklahoma State, most recently serving as associate head coach, special teams' coordinator and safeties coach. His resume with special teams is thicker than Wikipedia.
Holgorsen and DeForest coached on the same OK State staff in 2010 before Holgorsen was hired away by West Virginia. DeForest stayed in Stillwater for 11 years because he promised his daughter she would graduate from high school there.
On Jan. 14, the Mountaineers announced they had brought on DeForest, though there was no position given. They said they'd work it out after the defensive staff was completed. West Virginia had three vacancies after coordinator Jeff Casteel took off for Arizona along with cornerbacks coach David Lockwood and defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich.
Also brought in to coach the WVU defense was Mike Smith, a former linebackers coach with the New York Jets.
One position remains.
So we know Holgorsen and DeForest have a longstanding relationship. And DeForest has a much more polished resume than Smith, a 2004 Texas Tech graduate (Holgorsen was coaching there in Lubbock at the time). We don't know who the third coach will be.
But, we can guess, based on a few things DeForest said Wednesday, that he's got a pretty good shot at becoming West Virginia's next defensive coordinator, or at least a co-coordinator.
''It's an opportunity, in my discussion with Dana, what my position was at Oklahoma State, this could be a step up for me professionally,'' he said. ''An opportunity in my career to hopefully advance.''
And later ....
''We pretty much know what direction we are going but Dana wants to wait until we get everybody hired to announce the positions.''
If DeForest has a good idea, why would he move from one Big 12 school to another to pretty much do the same thing if the point of the move was to take a step up professionally?
Either way, he'll be a part of a defense in transition. The Mountaineers will play either a 3-4 or a 4-3 (probably a 3-4) next season, in part because it's easier to find hybrid safeties and linebackers that can rush off the end than to find big bodies to put a hand on the ground, and part of it's because just about every team in the Big 12 runs a spread offense and throws it all over the field so you need all the speed you can get on defense.
DeForest made all of those points Wednesday, but admitted that's a little down the road for him.
''I don't know any of the player's names yet,'' he said. ''I'm going to have to learn through other coaches telling me who they are, then watch tape and sorta clue in on jersey numbers to faces.
''It'll take some time, but I'll learn it.''
He spent his first two weeks at West Virginia in Florida recruiting.
What he was selling those guys was a chance.
''Everybody on the team right now on defense has a clean slate,'' DeForest said. ''Everybody gets to start over. The new guys coming in, obviously it's a benefit to them because they only come in 15 days behind as opposed to coming in 2-3 years behind in the scheme. I think as a recruit, I have a pretty good chance to maybe play early because it's a new scheme for everybody.''
As a positive, DeForest said, this move means he won't have to face Holgorsen's offense. A negative is that he'll have to prepare his guys to play a lot of snaps because WVU's offense, not unlike Oklahoma State's last season, generally scores in a hurry.
''We played three more games than Alabama did on defense at Oklahoma State last year,'' DeForest said. ''It's because (the offense) is so quick and it's moving so fast, but the bottom line for us is turnovers. They may get a couple chunk yards - you may be out on the field 20 more plays than another defense - but at the end of the drive, did West Virginia possess the ball, either by making them punt it or by making them turn it over? Those are the two things we're going to talk about.''
They'll do that talking, of course, after they settle the staff.
Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org